'Keep in Touch'

Laura Nafe '04 receives a hugs from mentor Lee Abrahamsen, associate professor of biology.

Commencement 2004 offered a nifty twist on tradition – all four honorary degree recipients offered remarks – but it was a Bates institution, Milton Lindholm ’35 who helped color the day “Bates.”

by Doug Hubley Photos by Phyllis Graber Jensen

Around 9 a.m. on May 31, a vendor stocked his cart with flowers and stuffed animals on Campus Avenue. In the Lane Hall parking lot, World War II tank commander and Bates President Emeritus Hedley Reynolds climbed from his truck and clapped on the mortarboard. Over the Puddle and under a blue sky, breakfasting swallows dipped and swerved.

On a path to the historic Quad stood John Holt ’64, father of Nathan ’04 and Ben ’07. “This is spectacular,” said Holt, not referring to the spectacle of his two dogs trying to spark something up with the Dan’s Beagle statue (who wanted none of it). No, Holt meant the day: “The weather is perfect and the campus is gorgeous.”

President Hansen congratulates Sarita Fellows '04.

Just as auspicious was a new Commencement tradition. In the happiest innovation since 1971 — when President Reynolds acceded to the seniors’ request to take the event out of the Lewiston Armory and onto the Quad — all the honorands, not just one, addressed the gathering, which this year numbered around 2,500.

“We were bringing these very distinguished people to campus, and no one else was getting a chance to hear from them except a few Trustees at dinner,” President Elaine Tuttle Hansen explained after the ceremony.

Post-ceremony, the Rev. Peter Gomes '65 walks hand in hand with Milton Lindholm '35.

Third honorand to speak but first in listeners’ hearts was Milt Lindholm ’35, dean emeritus of admissions (see Quiz, page 7). “If I had entered Bates as a freshman directly from high school,” Lindholm told the graduates, this day would have marked “70 years since I sat where you are now sitting.”

Indeed, Lindholm somehow managed to gift-wrap decades of Bates tradition and sentiment in a short address that included a swell joke — Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby alums stranded on a desert island, etc. — and a simple, poignant reminder. “Cherish the memories of the four years that you have been here,” Lindholm said. “Come back as often as you can. Rejoice in the friendships you have made. Keep in touch.”

Katherine Walker '04 (left) celebreates with mother, Suzy, as sister, Christine (14), looks on.

Other honorands: Rita R. Colwell, a biologist and chair of Canon US Life Sciences; David Levering Lewis, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of W.E.B. Du Bois; and John C. Whitehead, the businessman-philanthropist who chairs the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., charged with rebuilding the New York neighborhoods devastated on Sept. 11.

Lewis was provocative. In establishing parallels between our own times and the socio-political observations of Du Bois a century ago, Lewis cautioned the graduates against accepting the “Faustian bargain” of surrendering liberty for security’s sake. “The Homeland Security state and its Justice Department handmaidens, Patriot Acts I and II, may well leave our civil liberties as maimed as the New York cityscape,” he said, to applause.

The final three graduates stride toward the Commencement stage.

Henceforth, Lewis concluded, “you are going to be challenged to be more discerning about the values that matter than any college generation since Vietnam. In this regard, I think of no more apt observation than one made by an illustrious Bates alumnus” — Benjamin Mays ’20 — “who said: ‘I would rather go to hell by choice than stumble into heaven by following the crowd.’”

For Commencement texts, photos, and streaming video: http://www.bates.edu/commencement.xml