Messages of courage dominated Colby’s 185th Commencement Sunday, May 28. Francis Chapuredima left his village in Zimbabwe four years ago and became one of the most admired members of his class, the student-elected class speaker and recipient of the prestigious Condon medal. Acknowledging that this is a time of anxiety for graduates, Newsweek columnist and Pulitzer-prize winner Anna Quindlen used Chapuredima’s triumphs to exemplify the importance of confronting — and conquering — fears. With Miller Library as a backdrop, President William D. Adams presented the 465 members of the Class of 2006 with diplomas on a glorious sunny day.

Francis Tapiwa Chapuredima ’06 performs before delivering his speech as trustees and honorary degree recipients Alan and Jette Parker (front), whose foundation funded Chapuredima’s scholarship, look on.

Following Chapuredima’s spirited address that began with African drumming and ended with a standing ovation, Quindlen called courage “the secret of life.”

“You already know how important courage is,” she said. “After all, you chose as your class speaker someone from a small village in Zimbabwe who got on a plane to transcend hemispheres, customs, and cultures to come to Colby College. You can look at him and know that a flying leap of fearlessness is possible.”

While greatness stems from courage, no good comes from fear, she said. “You must learn to put the fear aside or at least refuse to allow it to rule you . . . It is fear that always tamps down our authentic selves.”

“The voices of conformity speak so loudly out there. Don’t listen. People will tell you what you ought to think and how you ought to feel. They will tell you what to read and how to live. They will urge you to take jobs that they themselves loathe and to follow safe paths that they themselves find tedious,” she said.

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”

As if anticipating Quindlen’s theme, Chapuredima began his speech by sharing his realization that, to deliver the class speech, he did not need to conform to any formula. “I’m going to be myself,” he declared. “The next problem though is . . . me. As you can hear I have a very thick accent. I’ve been here for four years but I haven’t done much to try to speak like the rest of you. I guess I’ve been busy trying to stay warm.”

Chapuredima marked his college years with service to others, and he called upon his classmates to continue doing the same. “I think we’re privileged to have been educated at Colby and hopefully we can embrace the societal responsibilities our privileged position brings,” he said.

An Oak Scholar at Colby, Chapuredima thanked the benefactors of his scholarship, Alan and Jette Parker, who, by coincidence, were on stage to receive an honorary degree. To his surprise, Chapuredima received another honor: Colby’s Randall J. Condon Medal, the only prize presented at commencement, for his commitment to constructive citizenship.

The class marshal and valedictorian, Matthew M. Meredith of Tabernacle, N.J., led the procession of seniors.