A Miller Library cake the size of a refrigerator. So many birthday greetings that Twitter shut down the special bicentennial account. And a surprise greeting and citation from President Barack Obama. Those were just a few highlights during Colby’s all-day 200th birthday celebration Feb. 27.
The celebration started with the ridiculous—students and senior administrators wearing silly party hats and mugging for the photo booth camera. It ended with Dean of Faculty Lori Kletzer reading a letter from President Obama that surprised even President William D. Adams.
“From its founding, Colby has been a leader in American education,” Kletzer read from the letter. “Its graduates have stood tall in far-flung classroom and pulpits; were martyred in battles against slavery and oppression; pushed open doors previously closed to women, minorities, and the underprivileged; and exemplified the  hard work and self-sacrifice at the heart of our national character.”
Obama’s letter noted that he has first-hand knowledge of the quality of Colby graduates as a number of them have participated in his presidential campaigns and in his administration. Finally it acknowledged President William D. Adams. “Bro has guided the college through a challenging period, and his legacy will live on long after his tenure ends,” read Kletzer, with Adams standing to her right.
Kletzer presented the letter as the Miller Library cake was cut and after Adams had delivered the Bicentennial Address in Lorimer Chapel. Adams introduced those remarks as an opportunity “to acknowledge the College’s remarkable past and to think about how we, inheritors of two centuries of effort and achievement, can advance the extraordinary legacy left to us by the founders and those who followed in their footsteps.” The transcript and a recording of the speech are online.
An earlier highlight of the day was a special theatrical work, Light of the Mind, commissioned for the bicentennial and created by Theater and Dance Professor and Chair Lynne Conner and Music Professor Jonathan Hallstrom. It played to two full houses in Strider Theater and was live-streamed to Page Commons.
Panel discussions in the Pugh Center featured faculty members tackling topics including Faith in the Liberal Arts, Fear, Perspectives on Spielberg’s Lincoln, and 1813: The Birth of a Notion? Students presented academic posters, and on display was a new telemetric buoy that will transmit environmental data from the depths of Great Pond beginning this summer.
With Arey Professor of Biosciences and bagpiper Herb Wilson in his kilt and a significant snowstorm in the afternoon forecast, the academic procession did not linger outdoors. Departments and programs marched in the order of their founding from Miller Library to Pulver Pavilion.
The party mood in the student center was maintained with throbbing African music accompanying the African dance group, a cappella performances, and indoor “ice” skating rink, and miscellaneous bicentennial swag including hats, water bottles, and souvenirs from the photo booth.
Messages of celebration and congratulations rolled in all day, shutting down one Twitter account, but continuing to stream online and on big screens in Pulver Pavilion. Those messages, including many photos, are archived online.
En route from the Light of the Mind performance to the next event, Professor of English Jennifer Finney Boylan said, “I got all teary. I totally drank the Kool-aid. Ah, Colby.”