There’s something different about this year’s commencement, May 26. For the first time in a century, all honorary degrees will go to alumni.
Gregory White Smith ’73, a Harvard Law School graduate who has coauthored five New York Times bestsellers and won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Jackson Pollock, will deliver the commencement address.
Sharing the stage with Smith will be honorary degree recipients David Bodine ’76, a senior investigator and chief of the Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch of the NIH Human Genome Research Institute; Eleanor Duckworth ’57, a cognitive psychologist and research professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education; Kenneth Ongalo-Obote ’94, a member of the Parliament of Uganda; Erik Quist ’99, a decorated Marine Corps captain who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Liz Czernicki Quist ’98, a veterans’ advocate and certified public accountant; Pete Rouse ’68, counselor to President Barack Obama; and Metropolitan Savas Zembillas ’79, the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh.
The honorary degree subcommittee of the Board of Trustees—charged with deciding on the list of potential speakers and honorary degree candidates—considered various ways to make the bicentennial-year commencement distinctive. Committee members concluded that Colby is very proud of its alumni, said Vice President Sally Baker, “and the best way to honor the bicentennial would be to have an all-alumni roster, including the speaker.”
“I think he [Smith] is going to say wonderful things about how the liberal arts informed his life and everything he’s been able to do,” said Baker. “He’s kind of the epitome of what a liberal arts education can do for you. You become a lawyer and you also write about painters.”
Beyond having earned distinction in their careers, the honorees also represent Colby’s historical roots—educating “teachers and preachers”—and some more recent areas of Colby’s focus, such as internationalism and scientific research. That, said Baker, was “an organizing principle.”
Members of the Class of 2013 have known throughout their Colby careers that their commencement would be historic. What the board subcommittee hoped as it recommended this year’s recipients, said Baker, was that “the Class of 2013 would look up there on the stage and say … ‘those are Colby people.’”