Enjoy these Bates Commencement moments, starting with the waning minutes of Midnight Madness and concluding with the hugs and congratulations from family, professors, faculty, and friends.

4:47 a.m. — In a Fog

As the overnight revelry known as Midnight Madness slowly gives way to Commencement morning, members of the Class of 2017 make the traditional climb to the summit of fog-shrouded Mount David.

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Durotimi Akinkugbe ’18 for Bates College


7:57 a.m. — Guarding the Sheepskins

Facility Services staffers Mike Adams (wearing hat) and Kayi Affo (right) join college registrar Mary Meserve (second from right) in arranging the racks holding 458 diplomas shortly their delivery to the Coram Library stage from Libbey Forum. At left is Jay Phillips, director of Facility Services.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


8:40 a.m. — Seniors in the Sun

The morning fog having burned off, seniors find a spot in the sun on Alumni Walk less than an hour before the start of the academic procession.

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Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


8:49 a.m. — Ready for His Closeup

Actor, local philanthropist, and Lewiston native Patrick Dempsey, recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, gets the star treatment from photographer Phyllis Graber Jensen.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


8:50 a.m. — Picture This

Dempsey lends a hand to a photograph these seniors on Alumni Walk.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


9:12 a.m. — Just Saying

Hannah Yibrah ’17, a sociology major from Somerville, Mass., chooses Proverbs 31:25 for her mortarboard message: “She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.”

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


9:15 a.m. — Honorable Mentions

The 2017 honorands pose with President Clayton Spencer (center) outside Pettengill Hall.

From left, actor, philanthropist, and Lewiston native Patrick Dempsey, Doctor of Humane Letters; art historian Wanda Corn ’62, Doctor of Fine Arts; U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Doctor of Humane Letters; and president of the Harlem Children’s Zone Geoffrey Canada, Doctor of Humane Letters.

Rene Roy for Bates College

Rene Roy for Bates College


9:17 a.m. — Waiting Game

Just minutes before the start of the procession, Alumni Walk is packed with seniors.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


9:21 a.m. — Tassel Bedazzle

Alongside the traditional black tassel, Annakay Wright ’17 of Brooklyn, N.Y., wears a multicolored LGBTQ+-themed tassel and a maroon first-generation-to-college tassel, provided to seniors during a year-end banquet hosted by the college’s Office of Intercultural Education.

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Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


9:34 a.m. — Pair Marshals

Associate Dean of Students James Reese (center), who helps to wrangle the seniors during the lineup on Alumni Walk, joins junior class marshals John Dello Russo ’18 of Revere, Mass., and Isabella Miller ’18 of New York City as the two marshals lead the class onto the Historic Quad.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


9:37 a.m. — Riding the Bench

These two Commencement guests seem to know that this bench next to Gomes Chapel is a prime spot to watch the academic procession wind its way across the Historic Quad.

Rene Roy for Bates College

Rene Roy for Bates College


9:38 a.m. — Minding Their P’s

The Class of 2017 processes past the Parker Hall porch.

Rene Roy for Bates College

Rene Roy for Bates College


9:45 a.m. — Filing and filling

Here’s a time-lapse of the entire academic procession filing in and taking their seats in front of Coram Library.


9:52 a.m. — Into the Light

Led by mace bearer and Phillips Professor of Economics Michael Murray, President Spencer (left) and the rest of the academic procession emerge from the shade under the Historic Quad’s trees and into the sunlight in front of Coram Library.

Rene Roy for Bates College

Rene Roy for Bates College


10:25 a.m. — Many Thanks

Senior class speaker Molly Chisholm of Boston begins her address with thank-yous to the Bates community:

Thank you to the staff members. From cheerful smiles at the egg line to fist bumps in P’Gill, you made each day a pleasure. Thank you to the students, to the lifelong friends we made or the one-minute conversations we had at the printers. Thank you for the color you have added to our lives. And, finally, to our professors, who sparked our interests and inspired us to see more than meets the eye: Thank you for helping shape the people we have become today.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


10:30 a.m. — Senator’s Smile

As mace bearer Michael Murray looks on, Susan Collins, Maine’s senior U.S. senator, reacts to applause after she is introduced to the audience.

Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Matt Auer introduced the senator as “a bona fide member of an endangered species: a bipartisan politician, who has been reaching across the aisle and working for the common good for 21 years as a U.S. senator from Maine.”

Rene Roy for Bates College

Rene Roy for Bates College


10:35 a.m. — ‘Ms. American Art History’

Wanda Corn ’62, the Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History at Stanford University, listens to her introduction and degree conferral.

As he introduced Corn, Dean of the Faculty Matt Auer quoted Bryan Wolf, chair of the American Studies Program at Yale, who dubbed Corn “Ms. American Art History,” calling her “the teacher, the mentor, and the organizer.”

In conferring the degree, President Spencer praised Corn as “an innovative scholar, inspiring teacher, [and] insatiable seeker of knowledge and meaning. Your life’s work reminds us that without art there can be no liberal arts and, it follows, no full or true understanding of the world around us.”

Rene Roy for Bates College

Rene Roy for Bates College


10:41 a.m. — Dr. McDreamy, L.H.D.

President Spencer congratulates actor Patrick Dempsey after conferring his honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

In her conferral, Spencer said, “Son of Lewiston, star of screens large and small, entertainer and philanthropist, you have challenged us as you challenge yourself: to reach higher, to do more, to lighten the loads of families who are suffering.”

A Lewiston native, Dempsey and his siblings partnered with Central Maine Medical Center to found the Dempsey Center to provide, at no cost, education, wellness services, and other forms of support to anyone affected by cancer.

Rene Roy for Bates College

Rene Roy for Bates College


10:42 a.m. — In the Zone

Commencement speaker and honorand Geoffrey Canada listens as Auer describes Canada’s work as president and builder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, begun as a one-block pilot program in the 1990s and today comprising 97 blocks in Central Harlem.

“Who could not feel obligated to continue their work, to ensure their deaths would not be in vain?”

A 1974 Bowdoin graduate, Canada recalled growing up in the 1960s and how American leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., John Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy had “everything to lose — money, fame, loving families” and they “lost it all for the ideals that this country stood for. Who could not feel obligated to continue their work, to ensure their deaths would not be in vain?”

Through the work he has done with the Harlem Children’s Zone, Canada said, “I hope I can set an example that inspires America to save all children.”

Rene Roy for Bates College

Rene Roy for Bates College


11 a.m. — Lean on Tree

Commencement guests use a maple tree in two different ways, as a camera brace and resting spot.

(The tree occupies an infamous spot. Twenty-four years ago, on May 29, the very old maple that used to be in that location toppled into empty seats shortly before the Class of 1993 came onto the Quad for their Commencement rehearsal.)

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Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


11:13 a.m. — Exit Stage

Monet Blakey, an African American studies major from Washington, D.C., acknowledges the audience as she departs the Commencement stage.

Rene Roy for Bates College

Rene Roy for Bates College


11:31 — Clap for the Bobcat

Charles Klein, a politics major from Ross, Calif., applauds the classmate in front of him, Zachary Kinsella, an English and philosophy double major from Manchester Center, Vt.

Rene Roy for Bates College

Rene Roy for Bates College


11:34 a.m. — She’s Honored

Honor Moshay, a politics major from Los Angeles, displays some diploma-tic pride.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


11:38 a.m. — Up Standing Members

Jack Adons, an economics major from Doylestown, Pa., and Matt Baker, a rhetoric major from Clinton, Md., cheer a classmate.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


11:39 a.m. — Bright and Sashy

President Spencer congratulates chemistry major Phathutshedzo Rambau ’17 of Mulima, South Africa, whose sash has the colors of his homeland’s flag.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


11:51 a.m. — Bleacher Report

Ever since Commencement was moved to the lawn in front of Coram in 1971, temporary bleachers have been erected on either side of the seated faculty and graduates. But not this year, and the open seating created this pleasing look.

Rene Roy for Bates College

Rene Roy for Bates College


11:54 a.m. — Shifting to the Left

After the last grad, Kyle Zollo-Venecek of Concord, N.H., received his diploma, President Spencer asked the seniors to stand. “Will the senior marshals please direct the class to move their tassels from right to left, thereby signifying the degree?” And they did.

Rene Roy for Bates College

Rene Roy for Bates College


12:05 p.m. — Congrats to a Grad

During the recessional, Professor of Psychology Georgia Nigro greets Polly Pritz ’17, a sociology major from Ithaca, N.Y. The faculty lines the walkway near Hathorn during the recessional, and as the seniors pass by, hugs abound.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


12:15 p.m. — Together Time

As families reunite with their graduates, Spencer Wallace ’17, a history and Spanish double major from Madison, Wis., poses with his family near Hathorn Hall. From left, brother Mitch, mother Melissa, brother Johah, Spencer, sister Celia, and father Jeremy.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


12:22 p.m. — High Sign

Two-year-old Issaga Coulibaly proudly holds the family poster honoring his uncle, Ben Coulibaly, a philosophy major from Philadelphia.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

12:24 p.m. — Proud Mom

Jessica Wilson, an environmental studies major from Cumberland, Maine, gets a kiss from her mother, Julie Hanlon.

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College

Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College


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