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At Colby’s 181st commencement on Sunday, May 26, 470 members of the class of 2002 graduated as several thousand family members and other well-wishers cheered. Class speaker John Montelle “Monty” Hobson of Clayton, Mo., delivered an emotional celebration of the caring, supportive community that the graduating class experienced at Colby. Guest commencement speaker playwright Arthur Kopit told graduates that the world, and our notions of security in particular, changed fundamentally during their senior year.
Both speakers talked about the impact of the events of September 11 on the class’s senior year and their effects on the world that graduates are entering. Hobson recalled how students had been shaken by the horrific news and the knowledge that some hijackers had driven right past the campus on their mission. “Aided by the forums that Colby organized and professors who took time to incorporate discussion about the events into their classrooms, students, and especially seniors, reached out to each other,” Hobson said. “We talked to each other. We shared our fears. We shared our angers. We shared our sadness. We shared our beliefs and we shared a common sense of relief that miraculously no one from Colby had lost a family member.”
The references to 9-11 were made more poignant by the presentation of an honorary doctor of laws degree to Scott Cowan, a New York City firefighter who accepted on behalf of all New York fire, police and rescue personnel. Other honorary degree recipients included Kopit, Chicana poet Ana Castillo, Public Broadcasting senior correspondent Elizabeth Farnsworth and Ambassador Robert Gelbard, a 1964 Colby graduate.
Kopit warmed the crowd up with a list of jobs he found at www.cooljobs.com, including an “Oscar Mayer talent search coordinator for the wiener jingle” and “a Lazy Boy furniture tester (for which no particular skills are needed).”
“Life is not easy,” he told graduates. “Someday you are going to be called upon to make a decision or two—maybe even three or four. I mean major decisions. How long can you hold off doing this? Well. If you go to graduate school, quite a while.”
Kopit closed with words of advice. “Be wary of anyone who thinks they know the answer; you’ve probably learned that by now. Be wary of yourself if you think you know the answer. If you follow your passions and work very hard at what you do, and if you take with you the great values that you’ve obviously gained here and were so eloquently stated in that beautiful opening speech [by Hobson], you will have enormous security. The rest of life is not very much different, it’s just on another scale. So the great adventure continues. Godspeed.”
Hobson’s closing advice was delivered haltingly, choked with emotion “If I can leave you with anything it is simply my hope that you will always live your life with love for others, be they friends or foes, rich or poor, black or white, wise or twenty-two. As long as you love people in this world as much as you’ve loved me I think you’ll find out who you are, and I think a lot of people will be very happy. I’m eternally thankful to you all.”
Gayle J. Pageau of Northboro, Mass., and Laura V. Yeamans of Framingham, Mass., led the procession of seniors as co-valedictorians and class marshals. Students, applauded by classmates, professors, families and friends, individually received diplomas and congratulations from Colby President William D. Adams. Light rain showers gave way to breaks of sun as the festivities proceeded.
Adams awarded Colby’s Randall J. Condon Medal, the only prize presented at commencement, to Megan Gossling of Riverside, Conn., after classmates and the faculty voted to honor her with the award for constructive citizenship.
Colby College in Waterville, Maine, combines a challenging academic program, an emphasis on undergraduate research, and a friendly, supportive atmosphere on one of the nation’s most beautiful campuses. Colby’s reach is international—in its recruitment of diverse students and faculty, the scope of its curriculum and its ambitious study-abroad program. The college, founded in 1813, now enrolls 1,800 students.