NORTH ANDOVER — When Pat Lockwood retired, the first item on her bucket list was to finish her college degree.

Lockwood, 69, who had two years of college, accomplished her goal yesterday she received a bachelor's degree in liberal arts summa cum laude during the 61st graduation at Merrimack College.

"It's never too late to learn, to love, to pray and to dance," said Lockwood, of Windham, N.H., retired from Raytheon Corp. after 30 years.

After the commencement, she was celebrating with a glass of champagne with her husband, Don Boisvert at a reception in the Sakowich Campus Center.

"I just love this campus, it's small and the teachers were enthusiastic with a very impressive resume," Lockwood said.

Cameras flashed and cheers were heard from the rafters at the Volpe Atheltic Center as 476 students received degrees, including 435 bachelor's and 41 master's degrees .

In addition, Merrimack presented an honorary degree to Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, for his commitment to serving the community, teaching, and ministering to those who have suffered from social and economic injustice.

"I'm very honored and very grateful for the presence of Merrimack College here," O'Malley said after the graduation.

"It has provided an excellent education for so many people."

Also receiving honorary degrees were the Rev. Donald F. Reilly, of Villanova University and Dr. Laurence M. Demers, distinguished professor Emeritus of pathology and medicine at the M.S. Hershey Medical Center of The Pennsylvania State University in State College, former board chairman and graduate of the class 1960.

In his commencement address, Thomas J. Kinton, Jr., chief executive officer of Massport, told fellow alumnus to hold on to the values their parents taught them, and encouraged by their faith be inspire to lead others. Kinton, who received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Merrimack, is a member of the Board of Trustees at the college.

"Don't sell the world, your country and yourself short, Merrimack College class of 2011, it's your turn," said

Kinton will retire from Massport June 1 after 35 years.

In her speech, student speaker Molly Wicker also talked about volunteering, which she did during the alternative spring break the school offers.

"We all have a secure future ahead of us," she said.

Senior class president Scott Pirrello said yesterday's ceremony was "bittersweet."

"It's been an incredible journey and I've built great relationships," said Pirrello, of Weston, who received a bachelor's in finance magna cum laude.

"I feel what I learned in the classroom prepared me to succeed," he said.

Others like Brian Armstrong of Ipwich was just happy to graduate. Armstrong missed a lot of classes because he suffers from cystic fibrosis.

"My best memories were the great professors and the many classes I took," Armstrong said. While he majored in philosophy and sociology, he was able to take astronomy and a horror fiction class at Merrimack.

In addition to the conferring of diplomas and honorary degrees, students and teachers selected Mark Allman as Teacher of the Year.

"I was completely shocked," said Allman, associate professor of Theological and Religious Studies.

"When they were announcing the award, I was thinking of the names of 10 people who should receive it. Then people started looking my way and I thought it might be someone around me," said Allman, who has taught at Merrimack for five years.

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