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“I want to thank Evan for that special time with his ferret,” said William D. Adams, president of Colby College, during Colby’s 182nd commencement exercises in Waterville Sunday morning. Adams not only babysat “Moose” the ferret while Class Speaker Evan McGee gave his speech, the president had to catch the wayward critter when it escaped on stage while the physics and computer science major from Edmonds, Wash., was talking.

Helen H. Vendler, the world-renowned poetry critic from Harvard who gave the commencement address, called it a difficult act to follow. “I’ve never had ferrets as a prop before,” she said.

Vendler, the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard, told the 497 graduating seniors that they need to look outward as citizens of the world. “Surely the largest task they inherit in this new century is learning to wage peace,” said Vendler to the families and friends of graduates. “Large cultural revolutions are made, after all, of millions of small gestures–poems, laws, teaching, conversations, services to others, imaginations of possibility.”

Vendler is the author of critically acclaimed books on Yeats, Keats, Stevens, Shakespeare and Seamus Heaney, and she reviews contemporary poetry for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic and The London Review of Books.

Lisa M. DeKeukelaere of Pleasant Valley, N.Y., led the procession of seniors as class marshal, having achieved the highest grade point average in the class. Adams awarded Colby’s Randall J. Condon Medal, the only prize presented at commencement, to Gretchen E. Groggel of Omaha, Neb., and Laura E. Shufelt of Darien, Conn. Their classmates and the faculty voted to honor them with the award for constructive citizenship. Groggel was president of the Student Government Association. Shufelt was coordinator of the Best Buddies volunteer organization, a member of Colby Christian Fellowship and the College Affairs Committee and an admissions tour guide.

Honorary degrees were presented to Vendler; Clifford Geertz, professor emeritus at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study and one of the world’s leading anthropologists; Edward N. Lorenz, professor emeritus of meteorology at MIT and founder of the science of chaos theory; Sonia Picado, a parliamentarian in the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica and former president of the National Liberation Party; and Peter Ralston, a widely published and honored photographer and executive vice president of Maine’s Island Institute.