Embrace me, you irreplaceable you, wrote Ira Gershwin about a century ago, a timeless notion of sweet affection that nicely captured the vibe at Commencement on May 29, as the Bates campus community, joined by Bates parents, family members, and loved ones, gave a fond embrace and farewell to the graduating Bates College Class of 2022.
7:16 a.m. Reading and ready
The first to take a seat at Commencement was Mark Evans, who arrived early to save seats and spent the down time reading the Sunday paper.
He’s a Bates parent times two, of twins Garrett Evans, a sociology major, and Liam Evans, a psychology major. “It’s a big moment,” he says.
7:17 a.m. Flower power
Mike Adams, a member of the Facility Services grounds crew, has his arms full of flowers that will decorate the Coram Library porch, the traditional setting of Bates Commencements since 1971.
Paul Christman ’98 poses with his daughter, Emma Christman ’22 outside Hathorn Hall.
When Emma’s dad graduated from Leavitt Area High School in Turner, a few miles north of Bates, he did what other Christmans had done. He went to work, first at the local grocery store in Greene and then at Bates. He also raised and showed draft horses.
At Bates, Paul had a job in the early 1990s that doesn’t exist any more: delivering mail to faculty and staff offices all over campus.
On his mail route, “I was going into Carnegie Science, Dana, and Hathorn, all these buildings every single day,” he recalls. “I got to know professors and staff.” Regular conversations, especially with folks in the science buildings, piqued his interest in attending Bates. “They took an interest in me. They encouraged me.”
He applied, was accepted, and resigned to become a student. Since graduation, he’s been a marine scientist with the state of Maine, focusing on the Atlantic salmon fishery.
Father and daughter are both biology majors, though Emma — who has a nifty tattoo of a salmon on her left forearm — has topped her dad by adding a geology major, and earning honors in both disciplines for a single senior thesis.
7:53 a.m. Delivering the goods
Megan McHenry, senior associate registrar, begins to arrange the Bates diplomas on the Coram Porch as Mike Adams, who helped deliver them, looks on.
8:04 a.m. Arrival time
Elene Chamberlain ’22, a biology major from Brookline, Mass., and Parker Caswell ’22, a geology major from Sandwich, N.H., are among the first seniors to arrive on Alumni Walk. After a “sleepless night and beautiful sunrise” on Mount David with classmates, they headed for a pre-Commencement breakfast in Commons.
8:23 a.m. Over easy
Zane Rahabi ’22 of Westwood, Mass., displays a meme that he printed and affixed to his cap, depicting a moment from the final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King.
“I say it a lot, like whenever I finish something,” he says. “When I finished my thesis, I said, ‘It’s over, it’s done!’ and I just thought it was a fitting thing to put on the cap.”
(The meme, he says, is a bit of a misquote of Frodo Baggins, whose actual gasping words after finally flinging the One Ring into the bubbling lava of Mount Doom, are, “It’s gone. It’s done!” To which his faithful companion, Samwise Gamgee, replies, “Yes, Mr. Frodo, it’s over now.”)
For Rahabi, “it’s been a long and arduous journey. I haven’t had to climb any volcanoes or anything or throw anything into them, but I feel like it’s a similar vibe.”
There’s another similarity between Rahabi’s journey and Frodo’s: Good fellowship and friends along the way.
8:46 a.m. Fine print
Many students wear something personally significant at Commencement. Like a tie, or earrings. Or both.
Alex Gailey ’22, an English major from Berkeley, Calif., wore “HEEM-MAN,” one of a few characters he has created and, he hopes, to one day turn into toys or sculptures. Gailey modeled a 3D design of HEEM-MAN from his drawings, then used a 3D printer in the Coram Library Visualization Lab to create the final figure.
“I spray painted it silver for crispiness,” he says. “I thought it would be fun to mobb* across the stage with one of my lil’ buddies.”
* To “move hastily in a joyous manner with known associates, including but not limited to friends, brethren, and academic acquaintances,” explains Gailey.
9:02 a.m. Mace game face
Mace bearer and Phillips Professor of Economics Michael Murray knows how to take a cue. He’s appeared in many Bates theater productions since joining the faculty in 1986, so when a photographer asks for a pose, Murray, who will retire from the Bates faculty this month, obliges and creates a sweet scene.
9:05 a.m. Dressing the part
After breakfast in Pettengill Hall, Commencement speaker Dr. Nirav Shah and his fellow honorands emerge onto Alumni Walk in their cap-and-gown splendor.
A few minutes earlier, in Perry Atrium, Shah got an assist from custodian-turned-dresser Ann Hixman, who is part of the team that helped this years honorands with their academic regalia. “I get one of those cool hats, right?” Shah asks. Hixman nods and takes one of the velvet caps off a shelf for him.
“You want some help?” she asks, smiling.
“I should be able to get it,” Shah answers as he settles into the robe and reaches for the cap. “There’s a 10 percent chance I won’t.”
The director of the Maine Center for Disease Control speaks in data. He flaps his arms in the robe to get comfortable. “They don’t have pockets,” he observes.
Shah knows his robes, having donned academic regalia a few other times this spring while being honored at other Maine graduations. So no wonder he’s ruminating on the lack of pockets: “Which is weird, right? I mean, my pajamas have pockets. I don’t know why they have pockets because I don’t need to store stuff while I sleep.” He moves on, now adjusting his hat. “Okay, I think this is it, right?” Hixman looks him over and agrees.
He’s got one last question before he heads back to the seating area, where he’s been sipping a morning Diet Coke (he’s a well-known lover of the beverage) and talking with Assistant Professor of Biology Lori Banks, who has been Shah’s faculty host for the weekend, hospitality that included a warm introduction of Shah at dinner the evening before. “Tassel to the left, right? Because that’s what academia does, moves you to the left?” He’s kidding, of course.
9:20 a.m. Walk this way
“So this pace is really good,” Associate Dean of Students James Reese (center) tells junior class marshals Kama Boswell ‘23 (right) of Bellevue, Wash., and Gretchen Lindenfeldar ‘23 of Pennington, N.J., as they head up the slight hill from Alumni Walk toward the Historic Quad. “Don’t go any faster than that.”
As the trio leads the senior class between Hathorn Hall and Parker Hall and onto the Quad, there’s a split second where Boswell isn’t sure whether to go left or right.
Paul Menice, head of Campus Safety, steps forward with arms and hands up, giving directions like an air traffic controller, and steers the group the correct direction (right, toward Gomes Chapel).
Reese chuckles and resumes his series of tips. As the leaders get to Gomes, Reese starts going over the complications of skinning the cat, the point of the ceremony where the faculty will pass between the two columns of seniors.
It’s up to the marshals to make sure they set the right example of stepping off the walk and onto the grass, leaving plenty of room for the professors and the platform party to pass through on the pavement. “I want to have my job on Tuesday,” Reese jokes, softening the tension for the two juniors with the responsibility leading the way for the nearly 500 students behind them.
9:27 a.m. Piper’s moment
A feature absent from Commencement since 2019 due to the pandemic, the Commencement piper returned in 2022. Everett Kaherl does the duties.
9:30 a.m. Well versed
The last group in the Commencement procession includes the honorary degree recipients, including Nikki Giovanni (center), one of the best-known and most widely honored American poets of the last half-century, walking with her faculty host, Associate Professor of Africana Sue Houchins.
9:52 a.m. Welcome!
As the academic procession arrives at Coram Library, parents, family members, and loved ones greet their seniors.
10:07 a.m. Growth mindset
Teresa Chico ’22 heads to the Coram stage to deliver her Senior Address.
She used a seasonal metaphor to describe her growth at Bates as a first-generation college student. A self-described “plant person,” Chico thought she was like her sturdy pothos plant when she arrived at Bates, so resilient it barely needed nurturing.
“Like so many first generation students and people of color… I thought that I owed it to my family and everyone who helped me get here to be perfect,” she said. “I was lucky to be here and I would make the most of it. No water or sunlight required.”
But as she progressed through Bates, Chico discovered she might be more like her Chinese money plant. “I had days where I was drooping, feeling defeated,” she said. “I had to learn to believe in myself, but I also had to learn that it was okay to ask for help.” In difficult times, her Bates professors “watered me with their knowledge and support.”
Michael Bonney ’80, a nationally recognized biotech CEO whose extensive philanthropy has funded the Bonney Science Center, new professorships, and innovations in STEM education at Bates, accepts applause for his honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
In a moment of sweet disorder, President Spencer conferred Bonney’s degree not once but twice.
The first time, Spencer, who worked closely with Bonney in his nine years of service as chair of the Board of Trustees, got a bit emotional as she delivered the conferral. So a few minutes later, she paused the proceedings, apologized, and asked Bonney to return to her side so she could present him his degree, “again and correctly.”
10:31 a.m. ‘Our counselor, philosopher, and sage’
Dr. Nirav Shah, a luminary of Maine’s public-health response to the pandemic as director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, listens to his degree citation, read by Malcolm Hill, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty (not pictured).
“He understands that COVID is not just a matter of contagion and transmission, it is also a challenge to our social structures and systems of meaning,” said Hill. “He is direct and unflappable; he explains complex issues in simple terms that can be understood by all; and he is unfailingly respectful of the trust the public places in him.
“He is not just our doctor in chief. He is our counselor, philosopher, and sage.”
10:37 a.m. We are amused
Bates faculty members laugh at one of the jokes in Shah’s personal, insightful, and occasionally very funny address.
Shah told the audience how, after accepting Bates’ invitation to give the Commencement address, he “pledged that I would take the honor seriously and commit to the careful craft of writing a speech in the same manner that many of you committed to your senior thesis or capstone project.
“So last night, after downing a bunch of Red Bulls and literally reaching the end of Twitter, I started writing.”
10:59 a.m. Yesterday and today
The family of Pierson Rambusch ’22, a neuroscience major from Madison, N.J., listen to the proceedings next to a few poster-sized photographs of Rambusch as a child, and now.
11:08 a.m. Dialing it up
Enrique Dolores Gonzalez ’22 of Hailey, Idaho, taps the Class of 1932 Sundial with his newly received Bates diploma.
11:13 a.m. Shake on it
President Spencer and Zoe Gallate ’22, an American studies major from Teton Village, Wyo., turn toward the Commencement photographer to make the most of the moment.
11:20 a.m. Touch and go
Bates diploma in hand, Amelia Ingersoll ’22, a psychology major from Middlebury, Vt., touches the hand of a classmate as she leaves the Coram porch and returns to her seat.
11:22 a.m. Taking it in
Ray Joseph ’22, a history major from Norwood, Mass., smiles as he looks at his Bates diploma.
11:24 a.m. Start to finish
Anna Landgren ’22 brandishes her diploma. She earned honors in her major, Chinese.
“In 2018, I photographed Anna in her first hours as a Bates student,” recalls Director of Photography and Video Phyllis Graber Jensen. “And I was able to photograph her in her final hours as a Bates student.”
The photo she’s talking about was taken on Aug. 27, 2018, as Landgren moved into Kalperis Hall with the help of her sister Elizabeth, then 8, and her brother Anders, then 15.
Anders, by the way, is now 19 — and just finished his first year as a Bates student.
11:38 a.m. The handoff
There’s a busy yet smooth diploma handoff operation on the Coram Library porch during Commencement. Here, faculty marshals Kirk Read and Laurie O’Higgins double check the diplomas, and then pass them to Spencer.
O’Higgins is the Euterpe B. Dukakis Professor of Classical and Medieval Studies, Read is professor of French and francophone studies.
11:43 a.m. Picture this
If it moves and it’s a Bates senior, chances are it will be photographed by a family member during Commencement.
11:43 a.m. Steady as he goes
Crutches made it slow going across the Coram porch for Chidubem Umeh ’22, a physics major from Randolph, Mass., which afforded a bit more time to pose with President Spencer.
11:49 a.m. Tassel task
Oliver Barrera ’22, a double major in politics and Latin American studies from Waukegan, Ill., and Losseni Barry ’22, a history major from New York City, move the tassels of their caps from right to left, signifying their bachelor’s degrees.
At Bates, the two senior marshals, at Spencer’s request, direct the class to move their tassels. The senior marshals for the Class of 2022 were Christina Wang, a double major in English and politics from Woodcliff Lake, N.J., and Fernando Rojas, a psychology major from Bristol, Pa.
11:57 a.m. Carrying on
As the Commencement recession begins, Professor of French and Francophone Studies Mary Rice-DeFosse takes her first steps as the college’s mace bearer, an honor accorded the senior member of the Bates faculty.
Looking on approvingly is Michael Murray, the Charles Franklin Phillips Professor of Economics, who retires this spring.
The college’s 10th mace bearer since the tradition was born in 1949, Rice-DeFosse will be the first in her department and first woman to carry the mace. When she arrived at Bates in 1984, one day serving as the mace bearer wasn’t on her mind. “It’s an unexpected honor,” Rice-DeFosse says.
12:03 p.m. See you!
Sydney Phillips ’22, a biology major from Plainville, Mass., spots a well-wisher during the Commencement recession.
12:10 p.m. Thanks mom
Assistant Professor of Sociology Marcelle Medford (left) greets one of her students, Abdul Mohamed ’22, a sociology major from Lewiston, and his mother, Safia Hersi.
12:25 p.m. Lip service
Rosie Crawford ’22, a double major in environmental studies and mathematics from Waltham, Mass., gets Commencement kisses from her aunt Stephanie Simmons (left) and her mother, Michelle Crawford.
12:26 p.m. Up, and away
Amina Mohamed ’22 (left), a double major in neuroscience and history from Tucson, Ariz., and Sandia Taban ’22, a politics major from Nairobi, Kenya, take a celebratory leap at the top of the steps of Hathorn Hall after Commencement.
Weatherwise, Sunday was an epically beautiful Maine day, giving the Class of 2022 some competition visually. But the seniors rose to the challenge, like Taban, unforgettable with vivid orange pants and sky-high black platforms and Mohamed kicking off in eye-catching green sandals.
Who couldn’t look at those orange pants without starting to smile. They represented the purest thing about the day: exuberance. The joy of being together, masks off, hugs and hand holding allowed, all free expression encouraged, accomplishments recognized and a new beginning starting after a picture-perfect farewell to the newest graduates of Bates College.