In his first address to members of the Class of 2013, in fall 2009, President William D. Adams noted that they would be Colby’s bicentennial class. On Saturday, May 25, in his baccalaureate address, he mined Colby history to offer his last pieces of advice and bid farewell to seniors.
In many cases, messages graduates received at baccalaureate 100 or more years ago remain true today, Adams said. In the baccalaureate address at the centennial celebration, President Arthur J. Roberts told students, “Give and it shall be given to you.”
“I echoed this sentiment, unknowingly, in your First-Year Assembly address,” Adams said Saturday, “when I said that, ‘What we as teachers know is that the principal obstacle to your intellectual empowerment at Colby is passivity. Nothing is more certain to constrain your growth here than the notion that you will learn by way of quiet osmosis—by sitting attentively in lectures, seminars, and laboratories and listening politely to others.’ Give and it shall be given to you.”
Members of the Class of 2013 embodied that maxim over the last four years, Adams said. Their contributions to Colby and to the broader community included mentoring local children, championing environmental causes, and challenging Colby on issues of inclusivity. “As it has been for 200 years, Colby is a work in progress, and we have a lot of work left to do. I know that you will continue to help us.”
But now, as they set their sights on the world beyond Mayflower Hill, seniors should “be confident about the full relevance and utility of what you have done here,” he said. “That degree is not so much about specific forms of knowledge or meeting requirements as it is about a more general kind of intellectual empowerment—the realization of your innate potential as thinkers, writers, speakers, and creators.”
Proof of the utility and flexibility of the liberal arts degree exists in the 2013 honorary degree recipients. Adams noted the accomplishments of the all-alumni roster: Gregory White Smith ’73, David Bodine ’76, Eleanor Duckworth ’57, Kenneth Ongalo-Obote ’94, Erik Quist ’99, Liz Czernicki Quist ’98, Pete Rouse ’68, and Savas Zembillas ’79.
“From those lives and careers I draw the following instructive, and I hope reassuring, conclusions,” Adams said. “(1) philosophy majors rule!; (2) Harvard owes a great deal to Colby; (3) the path between a Colby major and one’s professional destiny and success is serpentine, at best; (4) life is long, and the turns in the road favor those with the broadest and strongest fundamental intellectual capacities; and (5), and maybe most important, President Roberts was right on target in his baccalaureate address in 1920: ‘Give and it will be given to you,” Adams said.
Adams thanked members of the class for their giving to the senior class gift drive, which has a participation rate of 80 percent, and reminded students that their gifts to the College need not be strictly through monetary donations—they can include volunteering in myriad ways. “Your future association with Colby can touch many parts of your lives, and we hope that it will,” he said.
But for now graduates may be, rightfully, focused on the relationships formed on Mayflower Hill. “At every one of the many stops I make on my annual tour of the country,” Adams said, “I’m always impressed by the strength of the ties that bind classmates. These too are permanent acquisitions.”
The full transcript is available here.