Slideshow: Hour by hour with the Bates Class of 2023 on Commencement day
“A great, unpretentious, family-style Commencement!” is how a livestream viewer from Santa Fe, N.M., described this year’s Bates graduation ceremony.
The 157th gathering of the Bates family dawned bright and blue — soon to be hot, in the 80s — as family, friends, and loved ones began to arrive as early as 5 a.m. to secure seating. Graduates-to-be made their way onto Alumni Walk after 8 a.m., some bleary-eyed, some bushy-tailed, but all ready to step onto the Coram Library Terrace, their Bates diploma awaiting before them.
Here’s how Commencement went, hour by hour, on May 28, 2023.
7:41 a.m. Taking wing
A flock of Canada geese wing their way across campus, a foreshadowing of the upcoming taking-off of the Class of 2023 from their Bates nest.
7:45 a.m. Sorted, sorters
Associate registrar Zach Dumont (left) and registrar Megan McHenry do a pre-Commencement check on the diplomas, which wait, alphabetically, to be handed to members of the Class of 2023.
7:52 a.m. Early bird gets the… seat?
Hui Zhang, father of senior Zechen Zhang of Beijing, arrived at 5 a.m. to secure “the best place” to see his son receive his diploma. “Today is a big day for my family,” he said.
Nearby, Heidi Williams is also guarding seats in a shady spot, while knitting a baby blanket for a church fair. She knits for her grandchildren, too, including Jackson Williams ’23 of Cumberland, who will be processing across the Historic Quad in a few hours. “Four years went by very fast. It’s just amazing,” she says.
8:10 a.m. ‘Great friends’
A few rows across the Quad, Neil Delehey, father of Hazel Delehey ’23 of Camden, Maine, is sharing a rare in-person moment with Sean Ryan ’85, father of Katia Ryan ’23 of Amsterdam, N.Y.
The two have become friends during their time as Bates parents. “Great friends,” says Ryan, and Delehey laughs.
Now Ryan is thinking about ways he can still stay connected to Bates, since “having Katia here always gave me the excuse to come back.” As for Katia? “She’ll be fine,” he says. “She did well here, I’m sure she’ll do fine in whatever comes next.”
8:35 a.m. Sunshine by delivery
Anita LaRue-McAfee, mother of Dylan McAfee ’23 of Washington, D.C., is carrying a cup of iced coffee for another parent in front of Coram Library. She just saw her daughter — the “best part” of her morning so far. “We’re just overjoyed. Overjoyed for her, overjoyed for the class.” Like many of her classmates, “she’s had her ups and downs, but she’s doing well.
“Every single parent here is excited. They’re ready to do a jig!”
8:42 a.m. Bird in the hand
Neuroscience major Olivia Whittaker ’23 of Biddeford, Maine, holds her graduation cap, displaying the seal of Tufts University, where she’ll be attending medical school in the fall.
8:45 a.m. So far, so swimmingly
A group of swimmers take a selfie during the senior lineup. From left, Nathan Berry ’23 of Augusta, Maine, Abigail Gibbons ’23 of Westtown, N.Y., Dylan McAfee ’23 of Washington, D.C., and Liam Conklin ’23 of Newton Highlands, Mass.
8:47 a.m. Blue eyes, blue skies
These bright blue eyes belong to Rollo, a sociable 7-month-old corgi named after the first Duke of Normandy, a Viking said to be too tall to ride a horse. “His short legs were the inspiration for the name,” says his owner, Liya Simon ’25 of Durham, Conn.
Simon and Olivia Siegal are working on getting the pre-Commencement wiggles out of Rollo, rolling around in the grass.
Olivia is at Bates to watch her sister, Annie Siegal ’23 of Brookline, Mass., graduate, and Liya is here to celebrate Bates friends who are graduating.
8:53 a.m. Roll call
Senior Associate Dean of Students Molly Newton is among the team making sure that the seniors are in alphabetical order as they line up on Alumni Walk for Commencement.
8:56 a.m. A little light reading
Eric Fleischmann ‘23, a double major in philosophy and anthropology from Chatham, Mass., reads Bertell Ollman’s Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx’s Method while waiting to process on Alumni Walk. He’s reading it for pleasure, “a good introduction to Das Kapital,” he said.
8:59 a.m. Thematic tie-in
One senior sports a Bobcat-emblazoned tie, alongside a garnet Bates College stole.
9:13 a.m. (Literally) sharing a bite
Alek Zelbo ’23 of New York City and Jaff Gao ’23 of Cypress, Texas, enjoy their last breakfast sandwich from Forage, a downtown Lewiston bistro, as they line up on Alumni Walk.
9:15 a.m. Custom stole
Track and cross-country letterwinner Owen Glover ’23 of Andover, Mass., got the idea to wear his track shoes with his regalia two days earlier, during graduation practice, as he was whiling away time with classmates. “Last time I will wear them,” he said. “Bittersweet.”
9:21 a.m. ‘Waiting for the storm to settle’
As the final roll call makes its way down the line of graduates, Kush Sharma of South Burlington, Vt., steps out of the sun and into the shade.
“There are a lot of emotions, and I think the processing part is going to come later. I’m someone who likes to process and reflect in real time as much as possible, but there has been no scope for that, so I’m waiting for the storm to settle down a bit so I can be like, ‘What the hell just happened?!’”
9:30 a.m. The procession commences
James Reese, associate dean of students for international student programs, joins junior class marshals Ella Blum ’24 (left) of South Salem, N.Y., and Emma Upton ’24 of Amherst, N.H., in leading the Class of 2023 on the traditional route from Alumni Walk to the Historic Quad.
“It’s kind of like a practice, you know?” says Blum. “It feels very surreal to be walking in a graduation that is not my own,” especially since Blum’s own high school graduation was pretty much wiped out by COVID. “But I’m really lucky. My best friend is a graduating senior, so to get to be here with her is really special.”
9:38 a.m. Lifting the mood
Professor of French and Francophone Studies Mary Rice-DeFosse carries out her role at the mace bearer, leading the academic procession past Gomes Chapel.
10:21 a.m. Job well done
Rishi Madnani descends the Coram Library porch after delivering his speech as the senior speaker.
“Definitely not running on much sleep right now, but we’ve got caffeine,” Madnani said earlier in the morning, after spending his final night as a Bates student celebrating with friends, and then hiked Mount David for the sunrise. “It was nice, very emotional. This is surreal, I’m not really registering it yet, the gravitas.”
Professor of Rhetoric, Film, and Screen Studies Stephanie Kelley-Romano worked with him on his speech. “She helped me make it a little more speech-like, with structure and all that. I’m really happy with where it is right now.”
10:32 a.m. I heart you
Shankar Vedantam expresses his love for the Bates community after being presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by President Clayton Spencer.
10:38 a.m. Bend a little
Commencement speaker J. Drew Lanham crouches a bit as Professor of French and Francophone Studies Mary Rice-DeFosse adjusts his honorary doctorate hood.
10:43 a.m. All quiet on the Quad
A packed Historic Quad listens as Commencement Speaker J. Drew Lanham delivers his remarks.
11:12 a.m. 100 percent certified graduate
After returning to his seat, Mohamed Diawara ’23 of Philadelphia sneaks a peek at his diploma.
11:18 a.m. Tap for good luck
Imti Hassan ’23 of Portland, Maine, taps the Class of 1932 Sundial for good luck, a new tradition at Commencement. Hassan, a politics and history double major, is one of this year’s Fulbright Student award winners, receiving an English Teaching Assistant award for Taiwan.
Hassan’s interest in Taiwan began as a child in Portland, thanks to a Taiwanese neighbor, who introduced her to Taiwanese culture. Hassan became proficient in Chinese at Portland High School and continued her studies at Bates. “I hope to inspire students by sharing my family traditions, my language, and my hobbies.”
11:25 a.m. Pointed towards success
Ali Manning ’23 of Sydney, Australia, engages enthusiastically in the tapping tradition.
11:33 a.m. A space between moments
Spencer shakes the hand of Martha Reyes ’23 of Los Angeles.
Watching it all is the Rev. Brittany Longsdorf, the college’s multifaith chaplain, who will offer the benediction at the conclusion of Commencement.
“I get to really see each face as they get a diploma, and that’s just such a beautiful moment, one of my favorite parts of the whole year, the way they light up.”
In her benediction, Longsdorf spoke of the moment as “an intentional pause, a moment between moments. In this space between, I invite you to call to mind each soul who walked this journey with you — family, mentors, teachers, staff members, friends — and send them gratitude with a gentle smile and by taking a deep breath.”
11:33 a.m. Hip-hip, hurrah!
Family, friends, and loved ones gathered at one end of the Coram Library porch to wave and cheer at the new graduates as they exit the stage, diploma in hand.
11:42 a.m. Ending with a ‘Z’
Spencer shakes the hand of Leah Zukosky ’23 of St. Louis, the final Bates graduate of her tenure as the college’s eighth president,
For the record, Spencer has shaken 3,728 hands at Commencements since 2013. Cutting into the total was virtual 2020 (no handshakes) and mostly-no-shake 2021.
The first graduate she congratulated, in 2013, was Hakimah Abdul-Fattah ’13, a Fulbright winner and now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania.
11:52 a.m. Capping it off
Relieved and exuberant, members of the Class of 2023 toss their mortarboards in the air, punctuating the end of Commencement with a cheer.
11:52 a.m. Wrapping it up
Spencer turns to a camera during the Commencement recessional. At left is mace bearer and Professor of French and Francophone Studies Mary Rice-Defosse, and at right is Commencement speaker Drew Lanham.
12:02 p.m. Diploma: check!
Sam Jean-Francois ’23 of Medford, Mass., waves to family and friends, proudly waving a shiny new diploma.