Colby Colby Commencement 2002
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Commencement 2002

Commencement address by Arthur Kopit, playwright

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Read Commencement citations for:
Ana Castillo
Scott Cowan
Elizabeth Farnsworth
Robert Gelbard '64
Arthur Kopit

Honorary Degree Recipient Bios:
Ana Castillo
Elizabeth Farnsworth
Robert Gelbard '64
Arthur Kopit


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Conferred May 26, 2002

Ana Castillo
Scott David Cowan
Elizabeth Farnsworth
Robert Sydney Gelbard
Arthur Lee Kopit


Ana Castillo::
Ana castillo. Poet, novelist, Chicana feminist, activist, socially conscious educator. Through your writings about and personal commitment to issues of multiculturalism, you have not only engaged in the urgent struggle for social justice, but have called upon and inspired your readers to join you in the struggle. A self-proclaimed member of the "no-school-that-I-know-of-school-of-poetry," you came to writing out of a firm conviction that you have something to say. And indeed you do—and you say it with eloquence, passion, wisdom, and integrity. A prolific writer, you are the author of many volumes of poetry and fiction. In 1986, you won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for your first novel, The Mixquiahuala Letters. You went on to publish, among other titles, So Far from God, Lover Boys, Peel My Love Like An Onion, Sapogonia, My Father Was a Toltec, and, most recently, I Ask the Impossible. In recognition of your work, you have received many other literary prizes, including a Carl Sandberg Award, A Mountains and Plains BookSellers Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in fiction and poetry. In 1998, you were awarded the Sor Juana Achievement Award from the Mexican Fine Arts Museum in Chicago. You have also written or co-edited with other Latina writers groundbreaking works on race, gender and sexuality, culminating in Massacres of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma. In this central text of Chicana feminism, you explore the notion of "xicanisma," a term you coined to define the struggles of brown women in the racial politics of the US. You once said, "If I’m not making somebody mad, I’m not doing my job." We honor you for your courage, your conviction, your strength, your beautifully crafted and powerful works, for your vision for a world without borders—in other words, for doing your job.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Ana Castillo, the degree of Doctor of Literature, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.

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Scott David Cowan:
Scott David Cowan. New York City Firefighter. Terrorist attacks on our country on September 11 have left all of us indelibly changed, but none of us more than the members of the New York City Fire Department, the Police Department, and the rescue workers who responded so bravely and unselfishly at the World Trade Center. You were one who answered the call that terrible morning.

Raised in the New York area and a graduate of SUNY Cortland with a degree in psychology, you entered the academy to become a firefighter in July 1995. Your wife Carolyn, the daughter of a captain in the department, was raised to understand that immediate family concerns have to be balanced with the needs of the broader family of firefighters; she even understood when your honeymoon had to be postponed by a call to duty. For most of your time in the Department you have served on Ladder 136 in Elmhurst, Queens, as a member of the Elmhurst Eagles. Your company lost two men on September 11, including your partner and close friend Mike Cawley. You spent hour upon hour at the sight of the devastation, searching for survivors, not willing to leave while hope remained.

We honor you and the memory of your partner Mike as representatives of all your colleagues, brave men and women who as one have answered: "We did our job, we are not heroes." We will never forget the scene of firefighters, police, and rescue workers streaming into those buildings, seeking to aid those innocently caught, mindful of personal danger but moving ahead to do a job. You will always be heroes to us - - - to the Colby community, to the citizens of Waterville and of Maine, to Americans everywhere. You and your colleagues define the best in public service. You have set a standard for which we are enduringly grateful. Your dedication to serving others is a model that future generations of Colby students will hold in awe.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College and in recognition of all those who responded to the terrorism of September 11, 2001, I bestow upon you, Scott David Cowan, the degree of Doctors of Laws, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.

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Elizabeth Farnsworth::
Elizabeth Farnsworth. Accomplished journalist, writer and producer-director. After graduating magna cum laude from Middlebury, you earned a master’s degree in history from Stanford and began your career first as a writer with the North American Congress on Latin America and then as a free-lance journalist and producer of documentaries. Joining PBS’s NewsHour as a contributing correspondent in 1984, you became chief correspondent and later senior correspondent, concentrating on foreign affairs and the arts. Today you are head of the San Francisco NewsHour office. You see journalism as a craft and you have the innate ability to not only report the news, but also to provide insightful analysis—perfect attributes for an international reporter. Your writings have appeared in national publications and you have produced and directed several television documentaries. Your films have won numerous awards, including a CINE Golden Eagle, and American Film and Video Festival Blue Ribbon Award, the Asian-American Journalists Association Award for best television program, and the San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Award. You reach beyond the facts and into the heart of your stories, giving viewers an enhanced understanding of the world beyond our borders. With a journalist’s instinct and drive, and despite hazardous conditions, you have covered international events on location in Haiti, Vietnam, Cambodia, Peru, and Nicaragua. In the past year, you have journeyed to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, and Iran reporting about the challenges currently facing those countries. Your short-form television pieces have won many awards, including the prestigious Thomas Moore Storke International Journalism Award from the World Affairs Council of Northern California. The College honors you for promoting international understanding, which is the key to global harmony in this new century.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Elizabeth Farnsworth, the degree of Doctors of Laws, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.

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Robert Sydney Gelbard::
Robert Sydney Gelbard. Ambassador. Over four decades and four continents, you have been a relentless and creative agent of peace and human freedom. After graduating from Colby in 1964 with a B.A. in history, you, like so many Colby graduates, joined the Peace Corps and performed volunteer work in Bolivia. After returning home, you joined the Foreign Service and began an impressive career that made you into a widely recognized leader in world affairs at the highest level. Only fifteen years after leaving Mayflower Hill, your advice had informed American policy in the Philippines, Brazil, and France. You had also broadened your training by pursuing an M.P.A. degree in economics at Harvard University. Your expertise in international economic and financial issues brought you further important assignments in the State Department, such as Deputy Director of West European Affairs and Director of Southern Africa Affairs. You admirably represented the United States as Ambassador in Bolivia and Indonesia and East Timor, and you played a key role as Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State for the Balkans in ending Europe's bloodiest war since 1945. In all your assignments, you have combined masterful diplomacy with a courageous outspokenness in criticizing human rights abuses by the military dictatorship in Chile, the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and, more recently, the governments of Yugoslavia and Indonesia. You have been an ambassador in the truest sense of the word: perceptive toward foreign cultures and nations, but forceful in the representation of peace and democratic values. Your excellence has been recognized through numerous distinguished awards such as an honorary doctorate from Villanova University, the Order of the Grand Cross from the Republic of Bolivia, and the Secretary's Distinguished Service Award from Secretary of State Colin Powell.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Robert Sidney Gelbard, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place into your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.

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Arthur Lee Kopit::
Arthur Lee Kopit. Playwright, innovator, mentor, public conscience. Since the production of your first play at Harvard at age 20 to your most recent work, you have challenged societal norms with biting satire, tragicomic plots, and an uncanny ability to comment with clarity on our time. You have written over 30 plays and have garnered international attention as one of America’s foremost playwrights. Your plays embody theatrical innovation, intentionally redefine the traditional, linear dramatic structure, and delve deep into the American psyche to expose unfairness in political policy, social class structure, age discrimination, gender bias, privilege, and racial inequality. You have also probed such topics as nuclear proliferation, disability, and the challenges of living in an information age. Yet, despite these intense themes, your special ability to balance the tragic with the comic, and sometimes the surreal, through dramatic caricatures allows your work to remain accessible in performance, yet resonate long after the audience has left the theater. The many honors bestowed upon you are a testament to your vitality in the American theater. You have twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in drama, and in 1982 won the Tony Award for your book, for the musical Nine. You have been the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships which include: The Outer Circle Award, The Vernon Rice Award, a Guggenheim fellowship, a Rockefeller Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and the American Academy Award. You are noted for your generous character as a teacher and mentor. You have long been associated with teaching playwrighting at Wesleyan University, Yale University, and City College in New York. You are an active member of the Dramatists Guild and give freely of your time to young playwrights. Today we honor your ability to teach us through the medium of live performance. It is only in the theater that we can truly understand the flight of Emily Stilson in Wings. Her message is your message: there is a wonderful durability of the human spirit.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Arthur Lee Kopit, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.

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