Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Isabel Wilkerson to Deliver Commencement Address in May; Education Advocate Ana Rowena Mallari to Speak at Baccalaureate

Announcements8 MIN READ

Also honored will be Penobscot Nation Ambassador Maulian Dana, investor and philanthropist Michael Gordon ’66, retired President of Boston Fed Eric Rosengren ’79, Director of Maine CDC Dr. Nirav Shah, and artist Jamie Wyeth

By Bob Keyes
March 29, 2022

At its 201st Commencement on May 22, 2022, Colby College will confer honorary doctoral degrees to seven individuals who have made important and meaningful contributions through their professional pursuits, commitment to community, and generosity of spirit. The honorands will join the Class of 2022, faculty members, and guests to celebrate the academic achievements of Colby’s graduating seniors. This year’s honorary degree recipients are:

Maulian Dana, Penobscot Nation ambassador and an advocate for Maine’s indigenous people
Trustee Michael Gordon ’66, cofounder of investment firm Angelo Gordon and arts philanthropist
Ana Rowena Mallari, cofounder of QuestBridge and education advocate for low-income students
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
Isabel Wilkerson, award-winning author of Caste and The Warmth of Other Suns
Jamie Wyeth, renowned painter and American art icon

“We are inspired by these remarkable individuals,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “Collectively they have shaped policies that have bettered the lives of countless people and communities, illuminated issues that deserve our focused attention and action, and brought beauty and art into our lives. For our graduating seniors, who will be entering the next stage of their lives, these honorands shine a light on pathways of commitment and purpose that can lead to profound change and progress.” 

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. Published in 2020 to critical acclaim—the New York Times called it an “instant classic”—Caste describes America as an artificial and hierarchical caste system that influences people’s standing in society, how they are treated and perceived by others, and whether they have access to resources that will improve their lives. The book is being developed into a Netflix film.

Isabel Wilkerson (© Joe Henson 2008)

Wilkerson is also the author of The Warmth of Other Suns, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award and was named to more than 30 best-of-the-year lists. It made national news when President Barack Obama highlighted it for summer reading in 2011. The New York Times Magazine named it among the best nonfiction books of all time, and TIME magazine said it was one of the 10 best nonfiction books of the decade. In the book, Wilkerson tells the true story of three people among the six million African Americans from the South who uprooted their lives and moved to the North during the Great Migration of the 20th century.

A gifted writer and speaker, Wilkerson was the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. Wilkerson tells stories of migration and reinvention and the enduring search for the American dream, and she has become an impassioned voice for demonstrating how history can help us understand ourselves, the country, and the current era of upheaval.

The baccalaureate speaker will be Ana Rowena Mallari, who 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. QuestBridge connects thousands of students each year to 48 of the best colleges in the United States on full or nearly full scholarships. Mallari cofounded the Quest Scholars Program in 1994 as an undergraduate at Stanford and launched QuestBridge a decade later to expand its impact on a national scale.

Ana Rowena Mallari

Colby’s partnership with QuestBridge began in 2015 and is instrumental to the College’s mission of recruiting the most talented and diverse students to Mayflower Hill. Since the partnership began, the College has enrolled more than 280 QuestBridge Scholars, including 175 in the past four years.

Colby will also grant honorary doctorates to:

Maulian Dana

Maulian Dana, Maine’s first appointed Penobscot Nation tribal ambassador. Dana advocates on behalf of the Penobscot Nation and Wabanaki people and is a leading voice in the effort to pass a tribal sovereignty bill before the Maine Legislature. She has worked to eradicate the use of Native American mascots and to replace Columbus Day with a holiday that honors indigenous communities. She holds a degree in political science from the University of Maine, Orono.

Michael Gordon ’66

Michael L. Gordon ’66, a Colby trustee, member of the Colby Museum Board of Governors, and longtime supporter of the arts after whom the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, scheduled to open in 2023, is named. Gordon, also a trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, cofounded the investment firm Angelo Gordon, where he serves as the non-executive chair of Angelo Gordon’s Partnership Advisory Board, and most recently served as chief executive officer and co-chief investment officer. He is on the board of directors of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and the advisory board of Facing History and Ourselves.

Eric Rosengren ’79 (© Federal Reserve Bank of Boston)

Eric S. Rosengren ’79, P’12, outgoing chair of Colby’s Board of Trustees and recently retired president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. When his term ends in May, Rosengren will have served six years as Colby’s board chair and overseen a period of significant growth and momentum for the College. A distinguished economist, he led several efforts to expand the Federal Reserve’s outreach to and impact on low- and moderate-income communities, including foreclosure-prevention workshops and a competition for New England communities to improve the lives of lower-income residents. He brought a rare combination of analytic capacity and compassion to his work and was instrumental in helping the nation recover from global economic crises.

Dr. Nirav Shah

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who has provided calm and effective leadership for Maine residents throughout the pandemic. Shah, who completed medical and law degrees at the University of Chicago and studied economics at Oxford, has earned widespread praise—and attracted ardent fans—for his direct communication and detailed explanations during televised Covid-19 news briefings. Prior to joining the Maine CDC in 2019, he served as director of the Illinois Department of Health. Before that, Shah was the chief economist of the Ministry of Health of Cambodia during his tenure as a Henry Luce Scholar.

Jamie Wyeth

Jamie Wyeth, a beloved painter whose portraits and works have brilliantly captured the people and places in his life, has been one of the great supporters of scholars of American art through the Wyeth Foundation for American Art and was instrumental in Colby’s recent purchase of Allen and Benner islands off the coast of Maine. The son and grandson of famous painters, Wyeth is among the most accomplished American artists of his time, with paintings in many public collections, including the National Gallery of Art, National Portrait Gallery, John F. Kennedy Library, Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.

Members of the Class of 2022, who number approximately 540, came to Colby from 36 states and 23 countries. They will go on to a broad range of careers and to graduate or professional schools to study law, education, finance, medicine, environmental research and advocacy, nonprofit leadership, and much more.

The commencement ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. on the lawn of Miller Library, weather permitting. It is open to the public, and attendees who are not family members of graduates are asked to bring their own chairs. Any notice of weather-related location change will be posted at colby.edu, 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. For more information on Isabel Wilkerson, please visit prhspeakers.com.