BAR PORT — Friends and family packed the College of the Atlantic campus June 4 to celebrate the Class of 2022 at the school’s 49th commencement ceremony. Speeches, food and the return of the Annah Highlander pipers marked the university’s first fully in-person commencement ceremony since the start 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 recipient Alexis Gumbs.
“On this day of change in your lives, you inspire us all to remember the ongoing work of growth and transformation that we can do on any day of our lives,” Gumbs said as part of his remarks.
Welcoming the crowd of approximately 700, COA President Darron Collins recognized retiring faculty and staff members, including director of the writing program and professor Anne Kozak, director of academic services and clerks Marie Stivers and CIO Pam Mitchell, noting that the trio had a combined 100 years of COA experience and institutional knowledge between them.
Collins announced that in honor of Kozak, who began working at the university in 1978, the school’s writing center would be renamed the Anne Kozak Center for Excellence in Writing.
Boylan, a transgender writer, teacher, and LGBTQ+ activist, spoke in her opening remarks about the knowledge that Collins and other COA staff and students had been involved in fighting the fire that occurred at the Bluenose Inn across the street. COA street earlier this year. That action, she said, showed why COA’s mission to study and improve 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 about? And is there a better argument for the urgency of this college’s mission at this time in history? Because the world, right now, as you all know, is indeed a burning dump, and what the world needs right now is, in fact, a generation dedicated to putting out those fires,” Boylan said. “Members of the class of 22, we hope you will put out some fires and also light others with the torch of your imagination. We can’t wait to see what and who you will become next.”
Boylan spoke about her own journey as a transgender person, the dangers of bigotry, and the need to be proactive in working for acceptance and inclusion.
“When confronted with injustice, we have to prevail. And make no mistake: greeting the world with love doesn’t mean sitting back with a goofy smile on your face while the world burns around you. For love to prevail, it is necessary to greet the world fiercely, to stand up to injustice with ruthlessness and joy, wisdom and ferocity,” she said.
The graduation ceremony included several members of the senior class. Sadie Cooley welcomed the students, 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 Boylan was introduced by Molly Pifko.
COA Board of Trustees President Beth Gardiner awarded the titles 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 in individual snack and dessert boxes to reduce the spread of germs.