Presidential Poet Richard Blanco and Higher Ed Authority Charles Terrell ’70 to Speak at Colby College’s 200th Commencement

Announcements6 MIN READ

Lost Kitchen restaurateur and advocate for Maine women Erin French, Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Michael Rosbash, and award-winning Penobscot basketmaker Theresa Secord to be honored

By Laura Meader
Contact: George Sopko ([email protected]) 207-859-4346
May 13, 2021

Colby is pleased to announce that it will honor five influential individuals at the College’s 200th Commencement, to be held in person on Mayflower Hill May 23, 2021. The honorands will join the Class of 2021, Colby’s distinguished faculty, and guests in celebration of graduates’ academic achievements and their leadership on campus, particularly this year. Their successful completion in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic has special significance for all those involved.

Richard Blanco
Richard Blanco

Delivering the 2021 Commencement Address will be Richard Blanco, who received an honorary degree from Colby in 2014. A renowned poet and artistic visionary, Blanco’s words stirred the nation as the inaugural poet at the 2013 Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Blanco has been a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and the Academy of American Poets’ first Education Fellow and was the inaugural artist in residence at Colby’s Lunder Institute for American Art in 2018.

Born into a family of Cuban exiles, Blanco writes about collective, sociopolitical issues and advocates for the role poetry plays in the public realm. He has published four critically acclaimed volumes of his poetry, including his latest, How to Love a Country, which explores current issues relating to immigration, racism, gun violence, and LGBTQ issues. He has composed work that commemorates special events such as the re-opening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, Freedom to Marry, and the “Boston Strong” benefit concert, held in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. Boundaries, a fine-press book published in 2017, is a collaborative project with photographer Jacob Hessler. Blanco is also the author of a personal memoir of his childhood in Miami, and he is a contributing poet to “The Village Voice,” a section on WGBH, Boston’s public radio station.

Charles Terrell ’70

Baccalaureate Speaker Charles Terrell ’70 is a nationally recognized authority on higher education access, diversity in higher education and medical education, and student financial assistance. The founder of Cross Creek Higher Ed Associates, which provides pro-bono higher education advisory services, he previously worked for the American Association of Medical Colleges and Boston University Medical Center. Terrell served as a Colby trustee from 2006 to 2014.

Terrell is known as an icon of activism at Colby as a founding member and the first president of the student group Students Organized for Black Unity (now Students Organized for Black and Latinx Unity) in 1969. Terrell became a leader in a movement that challenged the College to confront issues of inequity, which, while highly controversial at the time, has since been celebrated for creating lasting change. Terrell remains engaged with Colby students and young alumni as a friend, resource, and mentor. 

Terrell will receive an honorary doctorate during Colby’s commencement ceremonies. Colby’s honorands are leaders who manifest values and ideals the College upholds—an abiding belief in the value of a liberal arts education to engage with and impact society through integrity and conviction; innovation and creativity; dedication to diversity, inclusion, and equity; and commitment to the State of Maine and its people.

Colby will also grant honorary degrees to:

Erin French, a James Beard Award-nominated chef who has established a culinary mecca at The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine, one of the most sought-after restaurants in the country. A Maine native, French is a steadfast supporter of women farmers, artisans, and entrepreneurs in the state, and during the pandemic she reimagined her business and brought new energy to her commitment by creating an online market linking her suppliers and consumers. French is the author of two books, including her new memoir, the New York Times bestseller Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story; Remaking a Life from Scratch.

Michael Rosbash P’08, a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist and chronobiologist, Brandeis University professor, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Rosbash is best known for his research with Drosophila (fruit flies) to determine how circadian rhythms work. The mechanism turned out to be the same for humans. Rosbash shares his enthusiasm for science with undergraduates and graduate students alike and works across the board in what’s been called a “magical collaboration.”

Theresa Secord, an award-winning Penobscot basketmaker, founding director of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, and an advocate for preserving and promoting the art of ash and sweetgrass basketry. A mentor, educator, curator, artist, and scientist, Secord has drawn widespread praise for her commitment to sustaining and preserving Wabanaki culture. Secord is a member of the Colby College Museum of Art Board of Governors.

“This year’s commencement will be particularly meaningful as we are all so grateful for the opportunity to gather in celebration of our graduates,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “We look forward to honoring and hearing the insights and perspectives of Richard Blanco and Charles Terrell while also celebrating Erin French, Michael Rosbash, and Theresa Secord for their important contributions. This group represents so much of what is right and good in this world, and we are delighted to be recognizing them in this way.”

Of the 514 members of Colby’s Class of 2021, who hail from 36 states and 21 countries, the majority have studied abroad, participated in a global research or internship experience through DavisConnects, and completed significant scholarly research. They leave Colby well prepared to succeed in a broad range of careers and in graduate or professional schools in areas such as law, education, finance, medicine, environmental research and advocacy, nonprofit leadership, and much more.

Colby’s senior class played a critical role in the College’s ability to provide an on-campus, in-person academic program for its students throughout this year. 

“The leadership of this class has been profound,” said Dean of the College Karlene Burrell-McRae. “They saw the challenge ahead and rose to it in ways that make us incredibly proud and grateful. I will be honored to read their names as they cross the stage at commencement.”

The commencement ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. on the lawn of Miller Library, weather permitting. Any notice of weather-related location change will be posted at, as will the link to a live video feed. While each graduating senior was allowed to invite two guests, for the health and safety of our community the event is closed to the public. 

A limited number of members of the media will be allowed to attend. Those wishing to attend, or who need information, 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, and Commencement 2021 bracelets will be required for entry onto Miller Lawn.

For more information about Commencement 2021 and Colby’s speakers and honorands please visit: