The award-winning author and humanitarian Barry Lopez speaks at College of the Atlantic's 2016 commencement ceremony.The award-winning author and humanitarian Barry Lopez speaks at College of the Atlantic's 2016 commencement ceremony.

The 43rd annual commencement ceremony at College of the Atlantic, which was held on June 4, distilled much of the college community’s spirit, enthusiasm, and talent into a single event. Scores of parents, friends, alumni, and students gathered in a large tent on the North Lawn to celebrate the presentation of 87 bachelors of arts and two masters of philosophy degrees in human ecology.

The ceremony’s keynote address was delivered by acclaimed author, humanitarian, and environmental activist Barry Lopez. Lopez is widely known for his reception of numerous literary and cultural awards, including the National Book Award for Arctic Dreams and the John Burroughs medal for Of Wolves and Men. An elected fellow of the Explorer’s Club, he is a frequent contributor to Harper’s, National Geographic, the New York Times, and other publications. His speech was intense, sobering, and impactful - definitely not your typical graduation fare. It is available in text-only form here.

The celebration was not without its levity, however. As usual, three graduating students offered their perspectives prior to the speech - Ariana Rambach ‘, Natalia Zamboni Vergara ’16, and WIlliam Minogue ’16. Rambach performed a rendition of an original song dedicated to her experience at COA on her ukulele. Could this be the new COA anthem? Only time will tell.

Other students who spoke at the event included Tyler Prest ’16 and Galen Hecht ’16, who assisted in delivering a welcoming address and introduced Lopez as the commencement speaker, respectively.

COA writing and composition professor Anne Kozak acted as grand marshal for the event, leading the processional march of the 89 graduates to the ceremonial grounds and subsequently extending her welcome to the students and larger community. Processional music was performed by nationally recognized bagpipe player Ursa Beckford ’17.

COA president Darron Collins ’92 had the pleasure of welcoming the community to the annual event alongside Prest. At the ceremony’s conclusion, Collins, alongside board chairman William N. Thorndike, Jr., conferred degrees to those graduating. Of the degrees presented, an honorary Master of Philosophy in Human Ecology was awarded to keynote speaker Barry Lopez.

With its diverse program and its gripping address, the 2016 commencement celebration will be remembered for years to come.

The College of the Atlantic class of 2016The College of the Atlantic class of 2016 Credit: ©2016 Brian Fitzgerald