Many hands make light work. Many hands also helped write the final chapter of the most unusual Commencement in college history.

On June 10, a dozen or so Bates staff members formed an assembly line in the College Store. Their job: pack several hundred boxes with diplomas and other markers of the college’s virtual Commencement on May 31 for mailing to this year’s 463 graduates.

The process was mostly quiet — punctuated with an occasional shriek of packing tape being dispensed and an occasional question: “How are we doing on bubble wrap?” “How many boxes is this crinkle paper supposed to fill?”

“There’s a long story in each one.”

At the front end of the assembly line were all the diplomas, filling traditional wooden racks that in other years would cradle the sheepskins on the Coram Library Terrace for President Spencer to give the grads.

That’s where Kerry O’Brien, assistant dean of the faculty, was stationed. “My job was bubble-packing the diplomas and nestling them into the boxes,” she said. “As I wrapped each diploma, I thought about all the energy and imagination and sheer effort that earned it. There’s a long story in each one.”

Staff gather in the College Store to pack and ship diplomas to graduates from the Class of 2020. The diplomas were dropped off by Mike Adams, Tim Kivus, and Adam Wright.

Those who volunteered to pack the pre-taped and assembled boxes that included tissue paper, all academic society/departmental honors/athletic certificates, alumni letter and CMH/CHS letter, printed and labeled theses, bumper stickers,  and diplomas:

Judith Otim
Gail St. Pierre
Donna Duval
Cheryl Lacey
Claire Schmoll
Christine Schwartz
Brenda Pelletier
Heather Taylor
Michelle Zuehika
Michelle Lewis
Kerry O'Brien
At the front end of the assembly line in the College Store on June 10, store staffer Judith Otim folds bubble wrap over a diploma before boxing it up and sending it on its way. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

At the other of the line was Claire Schmoll, executive assistant to President Clayton Spencer. Schmoll stacked the completed boxes on waiting “U-boat” carts that, once filled, were wheeled around the corner to Post & Print, where Bobby Bosse affixed a Bates decal and mailing label to each finished box.

“As I saw a familiar name, I hugged the box,” Schmoll said. “It was my way of saying, ‘Congratulations, we care for you, we miss you, and we hope to see you back on campus soon.’ I wish I could have hugged all the boxes!”

Each mailing box contained:

  • Bates diploma
  • Letters announcing recipients’ academic awards
  • Bound thesis (complimentary, if the graduate requested)
  • Congratulations from the Bates Alumni Association
  • Bates car window sticker
  • Congratulations from President Spencer and Dean of the Faculty Malcolm Hill

“It felt exciting and sad” to prep the boxes, said Christine Schwartz, whose office — Dining, Conferences, and Campus Events — oversees almost all Commencement planning and execution, so different this year.

“It was exciting to imagine our graduates opening the box, and finding the diploma — like a Cracker Jack prize at the bottom! — and opening it and feeling happy. But it was sad that we couldn’t share that moment with them.”

The contributors to the “boxing day” effort were:

  • Bobby Bosse, Post & Print
  • Donna Duval, College Advancement
  • Dan Girling, Post & Print 
  • Cheryl Lacey, Dining Services
  • Michelle Lewis, Conferences and Campus Events
  • Kerry O’Brien, Office of the Dean of Faculty
  • Judith Otim, College Store
  • Brenda Pelletier, Conferences and Campus Events
  • Gail St. Pierre, College Store
  • Christine Schwartz, Dining, Conferences, and Campus Events
  • Claire Schmoll, President’s Office
  • Heather Taylor, Finance and Administration
  • Michelle Zuehlke, Dining Services
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