BAR HARBOR — Friends and family members filled the College of the Atlantic campus on June 4 to celebrate the Class of 2022 at the school’s 49th commencement ceremony. Speeches, food and the return of the Annah Highlander bagpipers marked the college’s first fully in-person graduation ceremony since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Nearly 80 undergraduates and two graduate students received degrees in human ecology at the event, which featured keynote speaker Jennifer Finney Boylan and honorary Master of Philosophy degree recipient Alexis Gumbs.
“On this day of change in your lives, you inspire all of us to remember the ongoing work of growth and transformation that we can do, on any day of our lives,” Gumbs said as part of her remarks.
In welcoming the crowd of approximately 700, COA President Darron Collins recognized retiring long-term staff and faculty members, including writing program director and professor Anne Kozak, director of academic and administrative services Marie Stivers, and director of information technology Pam Mitchell, noting that the trio held a combined 100 years of COA institutional knowledge and experience between them.
Collins announced that in honor of Kozak, who began working at the college in 1978, the school’s writing center would be renamed The Anne Kozak Center for Writing Excellence.
Boylan, a transgender writer, professor and LGBTQ+ activist, spoke in her keynote address about learning that Collins and other COA staff and students had taken part in fighting the fire that occurred at the Bluenose Inn across the street from COA earlier this year. That action, she said, showed just why COA’s mission to study and improve the relationships between humans and their natural and social environments is more important than ever.
“Is there a better metaphor for what College of the Atlantic is all about? And, is there any better argument for the urgency of this college’s mission at this moment in history? Because the world, right now, as you all know, is indeed, a dumpster fire, and what the world needs now is, indeed, a generation dedicated to putting those fires out,” Boylan said. “Members of the Class of ‘22, we hope you’ll put some fires out, and also, that others will be lit by the torch of your imaginations. We cannot wait to see what and who you will change into next.”
Boylan spoke about her own journey as a transgender person, the dangers of intolerance and the need to be proactive in working for acceptance and inclusion.
“When we face injustice, we have to prevail. And make no mistake – to greet the world with love does not mean that you sit around with a dopey smile on your face while the world burns around you. For love to prevail, it is necessary to greet the world with fierceness, to push back against injustice with both relentlessness and joy, wisdom and ferocity,” she said.
The commencement ceremony included several members of the senior class. Sadie Cooley provided a student welcome, and Cooley, Regan Greer and Jasper White presented the senior gift, a wooden swing to hang behind The Turrets. Student perspectives were provided by Isidora Muñoz Segovia, Camden Hunt and Taibatou Adamou Garba, and Molly Pifko introduced Boylan.
COA Board of Trustees Chair Beth Gardiner conferred the degrees along with Collins.
The commencement was held under a tent on the North Lawn, and masks were required during the ceremony. Food was provided by COA dining services, led by Lise Desrochers and Ken Sebelin, and packaged into individual appetizer and dessert boxes to cut down on the spread of germs.