Poetry critic Helen Vendler, noting that she never had ferrets as a prop before, told nearly 500 Colby College graduates Sunday that they join citizens of the world whose mission is to wage peace.

“Large cultural revolutions are made, after all, of millions of small gestures – poems, laws, teaching, conversations, services to others, imaginations of possibility,” said Vendler, the author of books on great poets and reviewer for The New Yorker and other publications.

Vendler told the graduates that she had a tough act to follow – a ferret that got loose on stage while it was being babysat by Colby President William Adams.

Adams was watching the rodent while class speaker Evan McGee, a physics and computer science major from Edmonds, Wash., gave his speech.

A day earlier, Bowdoin College went ahead with plans to hold its 198th commencement outdoors at the Brunswick, Maine, campus despite soggy weather, awarding 451 degrees to graduating seniors.

“It may be dreary out here, but the Bowdoin sun shines on all of us today,” said college President Barry Mills. The sun is part of the Bowdoin seal and is a traditional college symbol.

In Portland’s Merrill Auditorium, Chief Justice Leigh Saufley of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court was the principal speaker at the University of Maine School of Law commencement.

Saufley, a 1980 graduate of the law school, extolled the virtues of hard work, humor and honoring the legal profession.

“It is time, once again, for us to respect what we do and help the world understand how important law is to the foundation of democracy and freedom,” she said.

The 62 members of the Class of 2003 included a podiatrist, a nurse, a chef, an antiques dealer and a professional photographer.

In keeping with college tradition, the commencement addresses at Bowdoin were delivered by graduating seniors.

The college awarded honorary degrees to bioterrorism expert Margaret Hamburg, choreographer Mark Morris, writer Grace Paley and financial consultant Raymond Troubh.

Offering greetings from the state, Gov. John Baldacci told graduates that they have the responsibility to accept challenges that go beyond their own education and their own lives.

“We each have to change. We each have to sacrifice a little bit in order to serve the greater good,” he said.

Commencements in Maine continue on Memorial Day at Bates College in Lewiston.

AP-ES-05-25-03 1553EDT

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