Colby’s Class of 2014 Graduates; Speakers Emphasize Presence
Colby’s class of 2014—472 students from as close as Waterville, Maine, and as far as Mutare, Zimbabwe—received their degrees at Colby’s 193rd Commencement ceremonies Sunday, May 25. Under blue skies on the lawn of Miller Library, both the student speaker and the invited guest, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, spoke about the importance of presence in a rapidly changing world.
For Patrick, concern comes from watching young people focused as much on their phones as on what’s happening around them. “Real human connection, the nuance of empathy and understanding, is often more gradual and subtle than Twitter,” he said.
“Human intimacy,” Patrick continued, “still depends on looking someone in the eye, touching them, actively listening, being present.”
In an address that contained very little classic commencement advice, Patrick asked one thing of graduates. “Sometime today,” he said, “put your tablet or your smartphone aside, look your mom and dad in the eye, and tell them you love them.” He urged them to connect in a similar way with friends, professors, and people they’ve just met. Human connection, he said, is a key ingredient to the creation of community, which, in turn, is essential for engaged citizenship.
In the student address Omari Matthew ’14, elected by his classmates, also spoke of presence, but in a slightly different way. A forward thinker, Matthew reflected that throughout his life he had looked toward the next thing. During his senior year at Colby, while discussing his anxiety about the future, a mentor said: “You’re so ready to exist in the future that you’re messing up your present time,” Matthew recalled.
“Usually when somebody gives you wise old sage advice, it doesn’t make any sense. But that one clicked—it made sense. In that moment, I got it,” said Matthew, a biology major from Bronx, N.Y. “Graduation, yeah, it’s the catapult—the launching pad into a future life. But let’s not worry about where we’re going to land right now.”
President William D. Adams, presiding over his last commencement, handed a degree to Matthew as well as each of member of the class who was present.
As valedictorian, Kathryn A. Moore of Vienna, Va., led the official procession of students and received the first degree. Justin Owumi of Jamaica Plain, Mass., received the Condon Medal for constructive citizenship, the only award presented at commencement. Natasha Ziv of Winnetka, Ill., received the final Colby degree conferred by Adams.
Governor Patrick received one of six honorary degrees at the ceremony. The others went to Richard Blanco, the poet who read at President Obama’s second inauguration; Elizabeth Broun, the Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum; William Chace, former president of Wesleyan and Emory universities; Andrea Nix Fine ’91, an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker who got her start in film as a Colby student; and Adams, the 19th president of Colby, who steps down June 30.