Passion for the Class of 2004


Richard Russo reminds seniors, families and friends that college is a time of transformation

By Stephen Collins '74
Photography by Fred Field

#smalltownmarshall933#right#65%#Colby has heard some great addresses from very distinguished commencement speakers, but never has a figure as prominent as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo been able to speak so intimately and affectionately about the College and the senior class. When 484 members of the Class of 2004 graduated on May 23 they heard from a professor who taught them fiction and from the father of their classmate Kate Russo.

Russo, who began teaching at Colby in 1991, delighted the crowd with ruminations on the nature of the education that Kate and her classmates were completing. Talking about Hank Devereaux Jr., the eponymous character in his novel Straight Man, Russo said, "Hank understands what many parents never quite seem to grasp,that sending their kids off to college is a lot like putting them in the witness protection program. If the person who comes out is easily recognizable as the same person who went in, something has gone terribly, dangerously wrong."

He finished with "Russo's Rules For A Good Life," including "Rule #3: have children. After what you've put your parents through, you deserve children of your own." Elaborating on that rule he said, "Just remember this: everything you say and do from the time your children are born until the day they move out of the house should be motivated by the terrible possibility that your son or daughter could turn out to be a writer, a writer with only one reliable subject: You."

A transcript and a video of Russo's address and other important speeches from commencement weekend are online at