Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin is Commencement Speaker and Maine Gov. Janet Mills is Baccalaureate Speaker

Announcements8 MIN READ

The College will also honor architect Ann Beha, immigrants’ advocate Claude Rwaganje, Maine state historian Earle Shettleworth Jr. ’70, Passamaquoddy leader Dwayne Tomah, and women artist advocate Susan Unterberg

Speakers and honorands for Commencement 2024 include (top to bottom, left to right) Gov. Janet T. Mills, Doris Kearns Goodwin '64, Ann Beha, Claude Rwaganje, Dwayne Tomah, Earle Shettleworth Jr. '70, and Susan Unterberg.
By Laura Meader
March 20, 2024

Colby will honor seven inspiring individuals for contributions to their respective fields at its 203rd Commencement May 26, 2024. The honorands will join the Class of 2024, Colby’s distinguished faculty, and guests in celebration of graduates’ academic accomplishments and personal growth.

Doris Kearns Goodwin ’64, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian, will deliver the commencement address. Goodwin received an honorary degree from the College in 1978.

At baccalaureate May 25, the official start of Commencement Weekend, Gov. Mills will address graduates and their families.

Those receiving honorary degrees this year are:

Ann Beha, award-winning architect 
Gov. Janet T. Mills, Maine’s first woman governor and attorney general
Claude Rwaganje, Congolese immigrant and founder of ProsperityME 
Earle Shettleworth Jr. ’70, Maine state historian, author, and architectural historian
Dwayne Tomah, Passamaquoddy language keeper and cultural preservationist
Susan Unterberg, visual artist and Anonymous Was A Woman founder and funder

“This remarkable group of individuals has done so much to improve lives and advance our collective understanding of society, history, culture, and humanity,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “We are honored to be celebrating their contributions and achievements and know that our graduates and their families will benefit from their distinguished presence on campus.”

Celebrated presidential historian, international speaker, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin ’64, LL.D. ’78 will deliver the commencement address. Goodwin is the author of seven critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling books that provide intimate portrayals of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and John F. Kennedy. Her books have inspired films and miniseries, some of which she has executive produced through her independent production company, Pastimes Productions, Inc. Goodwin is sought by the media and late-night TV and news hosts to provide historical context on contemporary issues and has served as a consultant for documentaries produced by PBS, History, and others.

Goodwin’s awards include the Pulitzer Prize in History for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II (1995) and the prestigious Lincoln Prize and the inaugural Book Prize for American History for Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005), the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-nominated film Lincoln. In 2016 Goodwin was the first historian to receive the Lincoln Leadership Prize from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. A former sports journalist, Goodwin was the first woman to enter the Boston Red Sox locker room, and she consulted on and appeared in Ken Burns’s documentary Baseball.

Doris Kearns Goodwin '64 (Photo by Annie Leibovitz)
Doris Kearns Goodwin ’64 (Photo by Annie Leibovitz)

Goodwin graduated from Colby in 1964 magna cum laude in government and was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship that same year to pursue doctoral work, which she completed at Harvard University, where she later taught. She served on Colby’s Board of Trustees from 1971 to 1974 and was awarded an honorary degree from the College in 1978.

Maine’s first woman governor, the Honorable Janet T. Mills was elected with more votes than any governor in the state’s history and was re-elected in 2022. Under her leadership, Maine gained national attention for its economic growth, clean-energy programs, and low death rates during the Covid-19 pandemic. Mills’s bipartisan accomplishments include an expansion of health care accessibility, funding for Maine schools, and tax reduction for retirees. Through her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, she invested in job training programs and initiatives to build affordable housing statewide. 

Mills earned degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and the University of Maine School of Law. She began public service as an assistant attorney general and was later elected district attorney, the first woman elected DA in New England. In 2002, she was elected to the Maine House of Representatives. She served as attorney general from 2009 to 2011 and again from 2013 until she was elected governor in 2019. Mills has strong ties to Colby—both of her parents graduated from the College, and she studied at Colby before traveling west.  

Governor Janet T. Mills
Governor Janet T. Mills

Colby will also grant honorary degrees to:

Ann Beha, an award-winning fellow of the American Institute of Architects and founder of Ann Beha Architects. Now a senior collaborating architect with Annum Architects, Beha incorporates her longstanding focus on historic preservation with contemporary design and innovation in cultural, civic, and historic settings. The American Institute of Architects, the Boston Society of Architects, and others have recognized her leadership and work. At Colby, her work includes the 2017 reimagining of Grossman Hall, home of DavisConnects. This LEED Platinum-certified building marked a shift in Colby’s architectural approach toward a more modern and inclusive building design. Beha earned an M.Arch. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ann Beha
Ann Beha

Claude Rwaganje, founder and executive director of ProsperityME, a nonprofit service organization dedicated to helping Maine’s immigrants and refugees build successful, rewarding lives in their new homeland. As an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwaganje understands the challenges of navigating America’s financial, governmental, and business systems, leading him to establish ProsperityME, which has helped more than 5,000 New Mainers in Portland and Lewiston-Auburn since it was founded in 2008. He has been honored by the Portland Press Herald and the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, which awarded him its Public Sector Leadership Award. Rwaganje holds an M.B.A. and is a certified coach and housing counselor through NeighborWorks America.

Claude Rwaganje
Claude Rwaganje

Earle Shettleworth Jr. ’70, Maine’s sixth state historian who also served on the Maine Historic Preservation Commission for more than 40 years, including as director from 1976 to 2015. Steeped in history from an early age, he developed a love of collecting, art, and architecture and has worked tirelessly to preserve, share, and celebrate Maine’s history and architecture through extensive lectures, writing, and service. In 2023 he received the Maine History Maker Award from the Maine Historical Society, an organization he joined at age 14. Shettleworth earned an M.A. in architectural history at Boston University.

Earle Shettleworth Jr. ’70 (Photo by Gabe Souza)

Dwayne Tomah, the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s language protector and teacher of its language and culture. As the youngest fluent speaker of the tribe, Tomah has dedicated his life to translating and revitalizing the Passamaquoddy language, including editing the Passamaquoddy dictionary and helping to create the Apple-Passamaquoddy Language App exclusively for tribal members. He worked with the Library of Congress on translating the Passamaquoddy Wax Cylinders, the first recordings in the world of Native languages, recorded in Maine in 1890. Tomah is actively involved in repatriation and Land Back issues, shares Native legends through song and dance, and is director of the Sipayik Museum on tribal land in Pleasant Point, Maine.

Dwayne Tomah

Susan Unterberg, a photographer and philanthropist who founded Anonymous Was A Woman to support women-identifying artists through unrestricted grants. An award-winning artist who has exhibited across the United States and abroad, her work is also in multiple public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She has been selected for numerous residencies and fellowships, including at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the American Academy in Rome, and she has received significant awards honoring her advocacy, vision, and service. In 2018 Unterberg stepped forward as the founder and sole funder of the Anonymous Was A Woman Award, which has awarded $25,000 grants to more than 300 artists since 1996. Unterberg received an M.A. from New York University.

Susan Unterberg (Photo by Alain Simic)

Members of the Class of 2024 came to Colby from 38 states and 18 countries. They will go on to a broad range of careers and to graduate or professional schools to study medicine, law, education, finance, environmental research and advocacy, entrepreneurship, nonprofit leadership, and much more.

The commencement ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. on the Miller Library lawn, weather permitting. It is open to the public. Any notice of weather-related location changes will be posted at, as will the link to a live video stream for those unable to attend.

Members of the media who plan to attend should contact George Sopko in the Office of Communications at [email protected] or 207-859-4346. Advance notice and Colby-issued press credentials are required of all members of the media.