Conferred October 11, 2001, by Colby President William D. Adams
TOM and PAT GISH, as courageous heralds of the truth, advocates for social justice, and journalists of unwavering principle, you are the heirs of Elijah Parish Lovejoy. Local in scale, your extraordinary efforts on behalf of dispossessed people in Appalachia are an inspiration for journalists throughout the country, and your ironclad commitment to principles serves as a model of integrity for all Americans. Despite being shunned and boycotted in your own hometown, despite threats against your family, despite a firebomb that destroyed your newspaper office in 1974, you have not been swayed from serving the trust you have earned from your readers. For a half century, the Gish family and The Mountain Eagle, whose motto is “It Screams,” have screamed: for better schools, for responsible government, for environmental safeguards, for fairness, for justice. You have been called “heroic.” You have been called “treasures of American journalism,” and for your worthy efforts you also have been called many other things that cannot be repeated here. Tonight we recognize your courage enduring threats and abuse, and we celebrate your life-long dedication to the people’s right to know. Colby is proud to add your names to the list of distinguished journalists who, in word and deed, have upheld the ideals for which we revere Elijah Lovejoy.
By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, TOM and PAT GISH, 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.