Citations for the Honorary Degree Recipients
Conferred May 25, 2002

Clifford Geertz
Edward Norton Lorenz
Sonia Picado
Peter Meredith Ralston
Helen Hennessy Vendler


Clifford Geertz
Clifford Geertz. Keen observer of human societies, critical interpreter of cultural difference, interdisciplinary pioneer, ethnographer, writer. In a word: anthropologist. Your scholarship has shaped profoundly the intellectual trajectory of your chosen discipline while also marking out new paths of inquiry throughout the social sciences and humanities. Your long pursuit of anthropological knowledge--to understand, as you say, "the role of ideas in behavior, the meaning of meaning, the judgment of judgment"--reflects an unwavering commitment to the value of "enlarg[ing] the possibility of intelligible discourse between" diverse peoples and cultural communities. You have transformed the way in which anthropologists and others think about ethnographic research and cross-cultural interpretation. And yet you have never defined your interests within narrow disciplinary boundaries. For more than 30 years you have held the title "Professor of Social Science" at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Your most recent book, Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics, encapsulates this lifelong practice of intellectual engagement, incisive prose, and cross-disciplinary insight. By posing questions never before imagined, by focusing attention on the instructiveness of the local and the particular, you have prompted us to look at the world and ourselves with new and more perceptive eyes. As you have said, anthropologists should seek to "unsettle" rather than to "reassure": it is their task "to keep the world off-balance; pulling out rugs, upsetting tea-tables, setting off firecrackers." We honor you today for doing just that--for challenging our assurance and keeping us off-balance, for upsetting tea tables of intellectual complacency, and for setting off firecrackers of startling illumination.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Clifford Geertz, 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 the 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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Edward Norton Lorenz
Edward Norton Lorenz. Meteorologist, mathematician, emeritus professor at MIT, founder of chaos theory, New England native. Your work on computer simulations of the atmosphere showed that the final state of a dynamical system exhibits sensitive dependence on the initial state and that small alterations in this initial state can result in huge differences in outcome. You called this phenomenon the "Butterfly effect," asking playfully, "Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?" Now, the hauntingly beautiful image of your eponymous "Lorenz attractor," with its elegant butterfly wings, has become an icon of chaos theory. Your work on the unpredictable behavior and fractal geometry of complex natural phenomena inspired a wave of interdisciplinary investigation into a new universe of non-linear systems, from the behavior of the turbulent atmosphere, to the fluctuations of wildlife populations, to the beating of the human heart, to the behavior of the global economy. Because of you, we can begin to understand a broad range of phenomena not as disordered, discontinuous, and erratic but as ultimately beautiful and clearly governed by a new set of concepts. Because of you, we can begin to refer to an earlier era in science as BC: "before chaos."

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Edward Norton Lorenz, the degree of Doctor of Science, 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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Sonia Picado
Sonia Picado Sotela. Judge, ambassador, president, chair--your many titles record extraordinary public service in politics, diplomacy, academia, and human rights in your native Costa Rica, in Latin America, and in the global human-rights community. You served Latin America's most stable democracy as a parliamentarian, president of the National Liberation Party, and Costa Rican Ambassador to the United States. You became Latin America's first dean of a law school and co-chaired the board of directors of the Inter-American Dialogue. A major force for rule of law as the guiding principle for governance in Latin America, you have focused on promoting accountability in human-rights accords. Serving as the first woman judge, then vice chair, of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, you established its legitimacy as a ground-breaking entity within the Inter-American system. In no small part due to your work, regional human-rights norms now transcend borders. Under your gavel as its current president, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights presses forward on human rights education and research. You are a beacon of moral authority; your expertise and commitment are valued not only in Latin America but throughout the world. You were selected by the United Nations to lead the International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor to investigate atrocities. You have just completed work as one of 12 distinguished citizens from around the world to sit on the Commission on Human Security. The commission's path-breaking report proposes a new security framework that centers on people, demanding genuine opportunities for people to live in safety and dignity and earn their livelihood--values espoused in your life's work and for which we honor you today.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Sonia Picado Sotela, 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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Peter Meredith Ralston
Peter Meredith Ralston. Photographer, environmentalist, and advocate for Maine's coastal communities. Your photography, often showing the beauty as well as the character of the Maine coast, has appeared in 34 books and more than 50 magazines as well as in exhibitions around the world. You also are an outstanding reproduction photographer and have served the Wyeth family in that capacity since 1978. Though you studied briefly under Ansel Adams, the Wyeth influence has provided greater inspiration as you use your camera to chronicle the work, the lives, and the environment of coastal men, women, and children. You were instrumental in forming the Island Institute in 1983 and serve today as its executive vice president. The organization is dedicated to supporting the coastal and island communities of Maine in numerous ways, including fisheries projects, community school support, and preserving Maine lighthouses and island post offices. You have contributed most of the photography and served as art director for the Institute's Island Journal since its inception and continue to spend as much time as you can on and around islands. Daniel O'Leary, director of the Portland Museum of Art, has called you "the direct spiritual descendant of Winslow Homer in [your] loving and solemn response to the Maine coast and to the people who live in harmony alongside its austere beauty." We honor you for your devotion to things close to home, for your artistic talent in sharing those things with the world, and for the record you have provided of a threatened coastal way of life.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Peter Meredith Ralston, 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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Helen Hennessy Vendler
Helen Hennessy Vendler. Your great achievement is at once extraordinarily wide-ranging and intensely focused. You have written major books on Shakespeare, Herbert, Keats, Stevens, Yeats, and Heaney and extended essays on Hopkins, Graham, Milton, Eliot, Plath, and others. You are among the very few Harvard faculty members to be named University Professor, you have taught at universities and summer programs in England, Ireland, and America, and you teach continually through your dedicated reviewing--mostly of poetry and books about poetry--in important journals and for an increasingly large, loyal, and influential audience. Your generosity to countless students--many now professors and some now poets--is legendary. Your subject, though huge, is single: poetry, poetic form and language, the poetic imagination. Your formalism, your attention to form and honoring of it, is determined and deeply serious and powerfully alive. You have taught us that "poems become memorable if, and only if, they renovate language and symbol and structure and genre," that close reading is not all there is to do with poetry, but that nothing valuable can be done without it. This strictness of perspective is a great strength, allowing for a sharpness of focus, sobriety of purpose, and joyfulness of execution that truly illuminate poems. We are lucky to have it, and Colby's privilege today is to honor it by honoring you.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Helen Hennessy Vendler, the degree of Doctor of Letters, 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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