Otis Caron of Lewiston walks across the stage Sunday after receiving his diploma during the Bates College commencement in Lewiston. Caron is a graduate of Lewiston High School. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Hundreds gathered Sunday in front of Coram Library to watch 437 students graduate from Bates College in Lewiston.

Attendees sat in folding chairs in the Historic Quad and used oak and maple trees to shade themselves from the sun.

Yun Zhang, president of the class of 2024, spoke of events — such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Oct. 25, 2023, mass shooting in Lewiston — that Bates students had to endure and the obstacles the events presented that students had to overcome. Zhang said a strong sense of community helped bring students and faculty members together.

The pandemic and mass shooting were two of the events that Madeleine Lee said upended her experience at Bates. She said she was in an athletic building during the mass shooting. She did not feel secure in that building so she walked home with a group of students. It was a frightening time for her and other students.

After the shelter-in-place order was lifted, students gathered at the dining hall, where staff members had put together a gathering that fed students and made them feel comfortable and cared for, she said.

There was also a sense of unity among students during the Halloween event held a week after the mass shooting that killed 18 and injured 13.


Bates College President Garry Jenkins, center, leads the recessional Sunday during the college’s commencement in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Lee said she enjoys traditions, so it was hard when the pandemic interfered with the traditional college move-in week. Instead of her family staying to help her unpack, she was just dropped off because COVID-19 precautions were in place. She also felt disconnected from college staff members during that time.

Lee said she still had many enjoyable experiences at Bates that she will carry with her beyond college, including everything students were able to do after pandemic restrictions were lifted.

Mfon Diduff also said she was disappointed the pandemic got in the way of college traditions. She spent her first college semester taking virtual classes from home, instead moving to campus during winter.

She said she chose Bates for its curriculum and tight-knit community, and feels privileged to have been able to do groundbreaking research during her four years at the college. She also said she will take away some of the friendships she made during her four years at Bates.

A bachelor’s degree is only the first step in the academic plan that Diduff has mapped out for herself, with a goal of earning a doctorate. Her advice to incoming freshmen is advice she also tells herself: Take your time and do not measure yourself to others.

“Everyone is unique,” Diduff said. “Everyone’s definition of success is not linear. I most strongly believe that whatever you find successful is a success. Do not measure your success to anyone else or to any other standard of society.”


Community was a prevailing theme in Zhang’s speech. She talked about how she and other international students felt isolated at certain times of the school year, but learned to make Bates feel like home.

Ron Do, a new Bates graduate from Vietnam, danced across the stage on his way to accepting his diploma, which drew cheers from the crowd. He said tt is good to break traditions a little.

The graduating class at Bates College lines up Sunday prior to the start of commencement at the Lewiston campus. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Do said he hopes to use his degree in psychology to land a job as a clinical research assistant at a hospital or university.

Cal Schrupp said he chose Bates for the birch trees and because he knew a lot of good people at the college. He said he enjoyed writing his senior thesis, participating in extracurricular activities and even dabbling in stand-up comedy.

Schrupp’s plan is to move to Portland and find a summer job, but he hopes to eventually “do something rewarding and purposeful” in the waste management industry.

Zhang urged her peers to make connections with people, and told them communities are built by embracing differences.


“Our journey from the gates of Bates into the vast expanse of the world is a transition from one form of community to another, with the mission to spread the ethos of understanding, support and unity that Bates has so deeply ingrained in us,” she said.

Mary Louise Kelly, co-host of “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio and an author, acknowledges the recognition Sunday after receiving an honorary doctor of letters degree during the Bates College commencement in Lewiston. Kelly delivered the commencement address. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Mary Louise Kelly, co-host of “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio and an author, delivered the commencement address, urging Bates’ newest graduates to live in the moment and not to get lost in the pursuit of success. She advised that the graduates hold onto friendships they have made at Bates because those are the friends who will be there for them later in life.

“Accomplishment is unreliable,” Kelly said. “Success can be a treadmill. It can obscure the actual living of life – Try not to let it.”

Bates President Garry Jenkins talked about grit in his speech. He told graduates to show their grit in their future pursuits because it will help get them persevere through struggles.

“By ‘grit,’ I mean a kind of perseverance, a stick-to-itiveness, an ability to adapt to circumstances and keep pushing forward,” he said. “Sure, talent helps, intelligence helps, but effort, especially in the face of headwinds and challenges, is almost always part of the story. Lean into this grit, this resolve, and resiliency you’ve developed.”

As Bates officials were awarding diplomas, the day warmed and the ceremony was interrupted briefly by a graduating senior who had a seizure. The student was up and walking by the time paramedics arrived, but was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

At the end of the ceremony, after graduates threw their mortarboards skyward, Kevin Moore, president of the Bates Alumni Association, welcomed the graduates into the association.

“Bates is a family and, like all families, it comes with privileges and responsibilities,” Moore said. “Bates alumni have been key to the strength of our college since its founding. So, I greatly encourage you to stay engaged, stay curious and stay connected, and seek the joy in this place, the people and the ideas that it has introduced you to.”

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