Austin, who graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of science degree, was the student speaker. State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, gave the keynote address.
Munson said Frostburg State University, which opened its Hagerstown campus in 1988, is "like a seed in an oyster," growing and flourishing.
When Munson graduated from high school, it was impossible to earn a bachelor's degree in Washington County, he said. Now, Frostburg offers bachelor's and master's degrees. Opportunities will expand when the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center campus opens within two years, he said.
The centerpiece of Munson's speech was a fable about an eaglet raised, through circumstance, as a chicken. The story could end with the eaglet seeing an eagle fly, but never realizing he is one.
"Not exactly inspiring, is it?" Munson said.
In an alternate ending, the eaglet flaps his wings and is rewarded with the "sheer joy of taking flight."
"Now, graduates, what will you do with your strengths?" Munson asked. "Will you be an eagle or a chicken?"
In between speeches, students were called to the stage to receive symbolic diplomas. Master's candidates stooped so hoods could be draped around their necks.
Flashbulbs snapped throughout the evening, particularly outside when the ceremony was over.
Theresa Rice of Greencastle, Pa., said that after two years of toil pursuing her master's of arts in teaching, "my dream has finally come true."
Rice was a social worker at Washington County Hospital, but decided she loved helping children best. She is student teaching at Lincolnshire Elementary School in Halfway and hopes to land a job there.
Troy Brawner of Hagerstown hoisted his 9-month-old son, Caden, over his head and smiled. His wife, Robin, snapped a picture toward the sky. The couple's 2-year-old daughter, Samantha, clutched a homemade sign that said "I am proud of my daddy."
Brawner, a manager at Mack Trucks and member of the Air National Guard, said he earned a master's of business administration for "more opportunities and to expand my horizons."