204th Convocation Officially Welcomes Colby’s Largest Class

By Laura MeaderPhotography by Gregory Rec
September 9, 2021

On a picture-perfect afternoon, the Colby community gathered on the lawn in front of Lorimer Chapel to formally welcome the Class of 2025. Themes of optimism and gratitude permeated the College’s 204th Convocation. This year’s event also introduced a new tradition: the ringing of the historic Revere Bell to mark the beginning of the academic year.

In the shadow of the ongoing pandemic, Colby begins this year drawing on the success of last year’s in-person educational experience and on new tools available to provide a safe environment again this year. 

“We have so many reasons for optimism,” President David A. Greene told the students. “For me, it begins with what we recognized last year: the precious gift we were given to be in this community, to learn together, and we were willing to act in the greater interests of the community to protect this gift, to protect this opportunity. We need that same commitment this year.”

The College’s 204th Convocation provided an opportunity for the campus community to collect and welcome the Class of 2025 on the day before classes began. (Photo by Gregory Rec)

The College remains dedicated to the principles that guided the community and ensured its health and safety last year. “Protect Yourself. Protect Others. Protect this Opportunity,” President Greene said. “That message is as relevant today as it was then. Let it guide us in the weeks ahead.”

Physical health is not the only measure of wellness; today, we also recognize that mental health demands our attention, President Greene said. The convocation speaker, Associate Professor of Psychology Erin Sheets, offered students tools for tending to their emotional health, now and in the months and years ahead.

“Over the next four years, I encourage you—I implore you—to ask yourself over and over, ‘What story am I telling myself? And does that story need revision?’” said Sheets, also a practicing clinical psychologist. These questions, the guiding principle of cognitive therapy, can help overcome depression and anxiety, she said. “It turns out that our emotional well-being, just like our academic work, is improved through revision.”

Sheets referred to the human mind as a machine of misinformation, “often overestimating threat, diminishing our abilities, and underestimating our resilience.” We need to check those narratives, she said, and question mental errors before they exacerbate anxiety and depression.

“The stories we tell ourselves, the thoughts we accept as fact, determine our emotional health. But among all the mess and anxieties of our current lives, there is choice,” she said. “You can examine what you attend to, consider revising those thoughts. That is the path toward stronger emotional health.”

Other kinds of stories, those of legend, came from College Historian Earl Smith, who recounted the history of the Revere Bell, a relic from the downtown campus given a new purpose as a centerpiece at convocation. Cast in 1824 at Paul Revere & Son Foundry in Boston, the bell was rung for special occasions as well as for everyday occurrences such as calling students to class and to chapel.

The bell became the object of many pranks over the years, its clapper frequently removed and hidden, including once in the masonry of a building undergoing renovations, Smith said. “Another time,” he continued, “the bell was taken by horse sleigh to Brunswick, where students swapped it with the bell at Bowdoin, each one then installed in place of the other.”

At the 204th Convocation, the venerable bell began a new tradition in Colby’s long history when eight students, two from each of the current classes, stepped forward and one by one rang the Revere Bell. 

Hwida Sevigny ’23 and Evan Domonkos ’23 represent the junior class in the ringing of the historic Revere Bell, rung for the first time at the beginning of an academic year. (Photo by Gregory Rec)

Mounted on a portable steel truss, the 700-pound Revere Bell will from now on be rung at convocation and again at baccalaureate to herald the opening and close of an academic year.

“As the Revere bell rings today, I hope you hear in its echoes those who came long before us, at this College and in our own lives, to make it possible for us to be here today,” said President Greene. “We benefit every day from their sacrifices, hard work, and generosity.”

A Colby ensemble provided a musical interlude with a compelling version of Louis Armstrong’s “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” led by the rich vocal baritone of Morgan Selby ’23. Cole Burkhart ’24 on bass, Karl Lackner ’22 on the keyboard, and Eli Zibello ’22 on drums all shone in their respective solos.

In closing, Dean of the College Karlene Burrell-McRae ’94 emphasized that Colby is at its best when everyone is in community with one another. “Let us all commit to striving for excellence,” she said, “working toward being a better version of our current selves and being there for each other.”