The students who make up the Class of 2026 were urged to be thoughtful with their time and to keep love at the forefront of their minds, as they were formally welcomed to the Colby community Tuesday afternoon.
“What I’m going to talk about is love in this community and how it may manifest and how it can be a powerful part of who we are when we’re together,” President David A. Greene told the students gathered on the lawn in front of Lorimer Chapel for the 205th Convocation.
The incoming class is the largest in the College’s history.
Greene said he had been inspired by the baccalaureate events of May 2021, which featured student performances. It was the first time the Colby community had come together since the Covid-19 pandemic began, and what transpired was remarkable, the president said.
“These themes came up throughout that entire event. They were all about love. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t scripted,” Greene said. “But there must have been something about coming through this pandemic together that told us something about what was missing in our lives, what we needed in our lives. About the importance of personal connection and how that informs so much about who we are at Colby.”
Greene gave examples of how love can be seen throughout the community, such as when Facilities Services staff work in sometimes grueling conditions on snowy winter nights to clear paths for everyone. Or when coaches use tough love to encourage student athletes to do their best. Or when faculty members see student potential and encourage them to grow in the classroom and beyond.
“It’s caring enough to challenge and push you beyond what you think you might be capable of,” he said. “Those acts, to me, are acts of extraordinary love.”
Convocation speaker Andrea Tilden, the Leslie Brainerd Arey Associate Professor of Biosciences, also found concrete meaning in abstract concepts—specifically, in the idea of time. Time is her speciality within neuroscience, she told the students, urging them to consider time differently in college than they likely did in high school.
“You may be wondering—if you’re only taking four courses—what in the world you’re going to do to fill up all that time,” she said.
But instead of filling every spare minute with extracurricular activities and part-time jobs, she suggested that students try something new.
“The reason we pace you this way in your courses is that your brain needs time,” she said. “In order to take the artful, intellectual, engaged approach that we expect of you, you have to invest the time.”
That doesn’t mean spending all day in the library on a Sunday to write a paper for Monday, she said. It means starting a project long before it is due and “get your brain tuned into” it for a while, she said.
“And then—counterintuitively—you have to put it on the back burner and go and do other things. Or nothing,” Tilden said. “And then, at regular intervals, come back to the paper, the studying, etc. Because the magical thing is that your brain is still working on the problem or idea even when you’re not consciously aware of it, including sleep, and it needs that time for the actual physical rewiring it needs to do in order to create and learn.”
The students also were encouraged to lead with kindness by Cat Merkle ’23, the co-president of the Student Government Association.
“This new chapter you are starting should be full of adventure,” Merkle said. “Please be kind to each other and to yourself. These people sitting next to you will be your family in this place. We all want to belong here and feel safe here.”
A Colby ensemble provided a musical interlude with a performance of “My Romance,” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, with musicians Ben Clifford ’25, Milo Lani-Caputo ’23, Chris Mellen ’23, Morgan Selby ’23, and Coleman Stanton ’25.
Student representatives from each class rang the 700-pound Revere Bell, which was cast in 1824 at Paul Revere & Son Foundry in Boston. The bell, likely one of fewer than 60 remaining, historically was rung at the College to mark both special occasions and everyday occurrences such as calling students to class and chapel.
In 2021, a new tradition was begun to ring the bell at convocation and baccalaureate to mark the opening and close of each academic year.
This year’s students were a welcome part of that tradition, college officials said.
“To all of you here today, but especially to the Class of 2026, I want to say we’re so happy that you’re here,” Greene said. “We know that you’re going to do extraordinary things. You’re going to change Colby for the better because of your time here. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.”
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