Class of 2022 Urged to Create Community at Baccalaureate

Featured speaker Ana Rowena Mallari tells students “a sense of belonging” is key to happiness

Ana Rowena Mallari, cofounder and CEO of QuestBridge, delivered the baccalaureate address, encouraging students to be themselves and find community. (Photo by Gregory Rec.)
By Bob Keyes
May 21, 2022

Students, faculty, family, and friends gathered on Miller Lawn on Saturday, May 21, for Colby’s 201st Baccalaureate, marking the achievements of the Class of 2022 with a ceremony that highlighted the importance of community, belonging, and resilience.

“We’ve been through a lot together over the last four years,” President David A. Greene told the students. “And while I have to say I am absolutely thrilled to be celebrating with you, I am also going to miss you. You showed us how to persevere through an unrelenting pandemic.”

Members of the Class of 2022 came to Colby from 36 states and 23 countries. They will pursue a broad range of careers, and some will continue their education at graduate or professional schools to study law, education, mathematics, finance, medicine, environmental research and advocacy, nonprofit leadership, and much more.

Greene also saluted the faculty for their commitment throughout the pandemic. “They never, never wavered from doing all that was possible no matter the personal cost to them to protect your Colby education,” Greene told the students. “Might you always be surrounded by people who care this much.”

Greene used the occasion to make a surprise announcement that the dean of students position would be named in honor of Charles Terrell ’70, who was last year’s baccalaureate speaker. Terrell, who was on stage and unaware of the honor, received a long, standing ovation. Terrell was an activist during his time at Colby and pushed the College to become more inclusive and equitable.

Charles Terrell ’70 smiles after hearing that Colby’s dean of students position is being named in his honor. (Photo by Gregory Rec.)

Terrell served as a Colby trustee from 2006 to 2014 and remains active as a friend and mentor to students and alumni alike. He was the founding member and the first president of the student group Students Organized for Black Unity, now known as Students Organized for Black and LatinX Unity, or SOBLU. He used his position to challenge the College to confront issues of inequity and dedicated his career to helping underrepresented groups gain access to higher education. 

“His name should permeate this campus to remind us that progress comes from courage and humility, especially the willingness to acknowledge when you have it wrong,” Greene said. “And Charles, we had it wrong, and you made us better because of it, and I thank you for that.”

Baccalaureate speaker Ana Rowena Mallari, a longtime and passionate advocate for first-generation college students, told the graduating seniors the most important thing they can do for themselves is to find a community where they feel comfortable and develop a sense of belonging.

Mallari is cofounder, CEO, and board chair of QuestBridge, a nonprofit organization that serves talented, low-income youth and helps to place them into the country’s top colleges, universities, and employers, including Colby. Mallari cofounded the Quest Scholars Program in 1994 as an undergraduate at Stanford and launched QuestBridge a decade later to expand on a national scale. Colby’s partnership with QuestBridge began in 2015. Since the partnership began, the College has enrolled more than 280 QuestBridge Scholars.

“Independent of wealth and status and of title and of position and any of these other external measures, belonging and a sense of community are actually the key to happiness and thriving,” said Mallari, who will receive an honorary degree during commencement on Sunday, May 22.

Mallari told the students she received a C grade during her first year at Stanford. The C caused her to wonder, “Maybe this is not the school for me. Maybe I am actually an imposter, just like I was afraid I was.”

Instead, she used that moment to reconsider what success really was and dedicated her life to becoming “a person who can build something in the world that can make a difference for other people that was bigger than myself.”

Mallari urged Colby students to find their personal calling, regardless of outside pressures. “At the threshold of your graduation, on this beautiful campus at Colby College, I invite you to really explore and pursue that sense of belonging for yourself, and do that for the rest of your life,” she said. “And ask yourself year after year, am I doing that? Am I creating community? Am I surrounding myself with people who can see me?”

Suixin “Cindy” Zhang ’22, right, leads the processional as class marshal, the graduating senior with the highest GPA. Zhang’s responsive reading included excerpts from Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic. (Photo by Caitlin Penna)

Class Marshal Suixin “Cindy” Zhang ’22 struck a similar tone in her responsive reading, which she adapted from the writings of inspirational speaker Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms and legs. “My best advice for finding inner happiness is to reach outside yourself, to use your talents and brains and personality to make life better for someone else,” Zhang said, quoting Vujicic.

Lensky Augustin ’22 recited the poem “Believing in You” by Catherine Pulsifer, which includes this stanza:

“Persist and persevere
Do not fear
Because if you believe in you
You will find dreams can come true.”

Misa Beltran-Guzman ’22 delivered the invocation, and Sonia Lacher ’22 presented a reading from the 1972 children’s book Free to Be … You and Me by Betty Miles.

Misa Beltran-Guzman ’22 delivers the invocation at Colby’s 201st Baccalaureate. (Photo by Gregory Rec.)

The Tinpanic Steel Band performed two songs for the ceremony, and Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life Kate Smanik gave the benediction.

“You are embarking on a new journey. The world needs your very best,” Smanik said in prayer. “The wisdom shared with you at every step of the way now lives inside of you. So draw on that wisdom and create a world that is just, equitable, and safe for all. Go forth. Where you find sorrow, offer empathy. When the questions are lacking, be the first to ask them. Where you find injustice, work in solidarity. When you discover something new, be generous with your insight. Where you see need, give freely, graciously, and without demand, for the world needs you and you are ready to take on the world.”

Commencement begins at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 22, on Miller Lawn, with seniors and invited guests. Pulitzer Prize winner and National Humanities Medal recipient Isabel Wilkerson, author of the best-selling book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree.

In addition to Mallari and Wilkerson, Colby will give honorary degrees to Maulian Dana, Penobscot nation ambassador and an advocate for Maine’s indigenous people; outgoing Chair of the Board of Trustees Eric Rosengren ’79, retired president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention; and Jamie Wyeth, renowned painter and American art icon.