‘Count failure as an intimate friend’ Bates graduates told


LEWISTON — Bates College bestowed diplomas on 436 graduates at Sunday morning’s 145th commencement ceremony.

Weather cooperated for the rain-or-shine event, which took place on the college’s historic Quad in front of Corum Library. The sun broke through as the last few graduates received their diplomas.

The college presented honorary degrees to a prolific Massachusetts Institute of Technology inventor, a notable Harvard dean and a revered Bates pianist.

Robert S. Langer, who is MIT’s David H. Koch Institute Professor, received an honorary doctor of science degree recognizing his pioneering work in the development of controlled drug release delivery systems (slow release oral systems, transdermal patches, injectable microspheres and slow-release implants).

Langer told the graduates that they should “count failure as an intimate friend.” He explained that the path to success almost always leads through numerous failures. In his research, he said, “Instead of finding one successful answer, I found 200 things that didn’t work,” and he emphasized that such experiences should also be judged as positive progress.

“Dream big dreams, and when things look bad, don’t give up on them,” he said.


Langer spoke about his work in isolating blood vessels so that they would not grow into cancer cells.

Langer is believed to be the most cited engineer in history. He has received more than 180 major awards, including the 2006 U.S. National Medal of Science and the 2008 Millenium Prize, the world’s largest technology prize.

He has more than 1,100 articles to his credit and about 760 patents issued or pending worldwide.

Evelynn M. Hammonds, dean of Harvard College, received an honorary doctor of humane letters from Bates College. She is a leading scholar in the field of the intersection of medicine and race.

She also told the members of the graduating class to “try your hand at failing.” She said going through periods of failure “let me see things I might otherwise have been blind to.”

She paid tribute to the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, renowned preacher, theologian and professor at Harvard University’s Divinity School. Gomes, who died three months ago, was a Bates graduate and member of the college’s Board of Trustees. Hammonds emphasized how Gomes championed difficult causes and was not afraid of taking unpopular stands.

She also compared the history of Bates to fearless disregard for peculiarity because it was founded in 1855 by radical abolitionists.

“I hope you will do what is right for you and for the world in the most peculiar ways,” she told the graduates.

“I look forward to the world that you will help to build,” Hammonds concluded.

Frank Glazer, a 96-year-old pianist who is Bates artist in residence and lecturer in music, received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.

He told the Bates graduates he depends upon a positive attitude at all times and believes “there is no point in dwelling on disappointment.”

Glazer advised the members of the Class of 2011 that success can come from “accepting yourself for who you are and not worrying about who you are not.”

He said, “It serves no useful purpose to compare yourself with another person,” and he told the graduates, “remain firm to that commitment which is at the core of your existence.”

Glazer’s concert piano debut took place on a Milwaukee vaudeville stage in 1927 when he was 12 years old.

A protege of legendary pianist Artur Schnabel and composer Arnold Schoenberg, he made his New York debut in 1936 at Town Hall. His orchestral debut as soloist was three years later with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Koussevitsky.

Glazer taught at Eastman School of Music beginning in 1965, and he came to Bates College in 1977.

A few years ago, he said, “I don’t know what retirement means. I’ve worked all my life to get to this point where I like the sounds I hear.”

The 436 graduates in the Bates College Class of 2011 include 42 from Maine. About 34 other states and 20 foreign countries were represented.

Graduates from the area include three from Lewiston, Mohamed Massid Cader, mathematics and economics (magna cum laude); Vitalie Djugostran, economics and French; and Anzela Niraula, neuroscience; two from Auburn, Thomas Richard Esponnette, biology; and Brittney Michele French, anthropology; Katherine D’Anna Bernier of Monmouth, chemistry (cum laude); Jared Forrest Golden of Leeds, history and politics; and Lauren Marie McAllister of Bethel, psychology.