Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson is Colby Commencement speaker

Colby College in Waterville will honor its 540 or so graduates in a commencement ceremony alongside seven well-known people who have made meaningful contributions to Maine.

Commencement is scheduled for 10 am May 22 on the lawn of Miller Library, the college announced Tuesday. The event is open to the public.

For its 201st commencement, Colby College will award diplomas to the Class of 2022, which includes students from 36 states and 23 countries.

Honorary doctoral degrees will be given to influential people such as Penobscot Nation tribal ambassador Maulian Dana, who advocates for Maine’s indigenous people, and Nirav Shah, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director who has led the state through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Isabel Wilkerson will be the commencement speaker for graduating seniors. Ana Rowena Mallari — cofounder and CEO of QuestBridge, which places talented youth with low-income backgrounds at top colleges and employers — will be the baccalaureate speaker. Colby College has had prominent commencement speakers and guests in past years, including President Joseph Biden in 2017 and film icon and activist Robert Redford in 2015.

Other than Dana, Shah, Wilkerson and Mallari, the list of honorary degree recipients includes Michael Gordon, college trustee and cofounder of investment firm Angelo Gordon; Eric Rosengren, Colby board of trustees chair and former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; and Jamie Wyeth, renowned painter.

Wilkerson wrote nonfiction books “The Warmth of Other Suns” and more recently “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.”

In 1994, she was the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism for her New York Times profile of a fourth-grader from Chicago’s South Side and for two stories covering the Midwestern flood of 1993.

Colby College President David Greene said the seven people receiving honorary degrees have collectively shaped policies that have improved the lives of countless people and communities. They have also illuminated issues and brought art and beauty into the world, he said.

“For our graduating seniors, who will be entering the next stage of their lives, these honors shine a light on pathways of commitment and purpose that can lead to profound change and progress,” he said.

For commencement attendees who are not family members of graduates, the college asks that they bring their own chairs. A link to the livestream and any weather-related changes will be posted on the college’s website.

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