Commencement 2003

The Class of 2003 leaves Bates with good reason, says speaker Stephen Carter.

“I do weddings all over the place,” said bagpiper Michael Crosby, “funerals and boat launches” — and one commencement each year, at Bates.

We spotted Crosby on May 26 hanging around beside Hathorn Hall, decked out in kilt and sporran, holding his pipes and awaiting the call to lead the ceremonial procession through the Quad, which he has done since the mid-1990s. A piper for 18 years, this Gorham resident knows well why his instrument is in demand for such rituals. “It’s a primitive instrument that really brings out emotions,” he said, especially over a distance out of doors.

“I think it sounds best over the water.”

But more to the point for this particular Commencement, perhaps, was how the pipes would sound under the water, for rain was a looming possibility. “We have until noon,” one optimist said, but he was wrong. The morning began with mottled cloud and a pleasant coolness, and by the time the first graduates accepted their diplomas from President Elaine Tuttle Hansen, the coolness had lost its pleasantness, and a light rain was falling.

Happily, the rain that did fall barely wet the Quad walkways, and anyway, most people were equipped for the conditions with raincoats, parkas, and umbrellas. One member of the photography firm hired to capture grads’ grins as they collected their diplomas was wearing a wool scarf — in bright red, perhaps to celebrate the start of Maine’s summer vacation season. Especially well-prepared was Brooks Crowley ’03 of Goldens Bridge, N.Y. He eschewed the usual polyester gown in favor of a toasty wool number that offered the added warmth of familial good feeling: The gown was first worn by his great-grandmother, Bertha Cottrell Lee, at her Wellesley graduation in 1910. Brooks was the 23rd family member to wear the robe at a commencement.

Stephen Carter — Yale law professor, expert on religion and law, and the best-selling author of the novel The Emperor of Ocean Park — used his address to welcome the 443 graduates into “the reasoning class — people who are trained to use their minds.” The world, said Carter, has too few people trained “to really apply the power of human intelligence to try to solve the knotty problems of policy, of politics, of philosophy, of morality. Human reason is one of God’s great gifts to the human race, and it does us no credit when we under-use it.”

As members of the reasoning class, the Class of 2003 can move “beyond a world governed by media sound bites, knee-jerk reactions, chants that substitute for argument,” he added, beyond a world where people are “demonized … because their ideals happen to be different from those you cherish.” Instead, Carter suggested, graduates can make the world a better place by “applying human reason to problems that divide us and threaten us” and by “drawing into reasonable conversation thoughtful people with whom you disagree.”

Commencement on the Web
Photos, addresses, and citations at