WATERVILLE — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is scheduled to be the commencement speaker at Colby College’s graduation on May 25.
Patrick, a Harvard Law School graduate and first-generation college student, will deliver the commencement speech and receive an honorary degree, along with retiring Colby President William D. Adams.
The choice of Patrick, which was made last year, according to Colby College Vice President Sally Baker, had a lot to do with the college’s connection to Massachusetts.
“Last year while we were thinking about the 2014 commencement, we were having our bicentennial, and of course Colby College was part of Massachusetts when it was founded,” Baker said Wednesday morning. “We felt quite close to the state between that connection and the events at the Boston Marathon, and Governor Patrick is such a great example of a first-generation college student who benefited from his education.”
Patrick was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2006 and won a second term in 2010.
Patrick, who’s originally from the South Side of Chicago, was awarded a scholarship to Milton Academy in Massachusetts through Boston-based organization A Better Chance. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Patrick was a clerk for a federal judge, then had a career as an attorney and business executive, rising to senior executive spots at Texaco and Coca-Cola.
In 1994, Patrick was named assistant attorney general for civil rights by President Bill Clinton.
Patrick’s office had no comment but said the governor will issue one a week before the commencement.
After 15 years, Adams is retiring as Colby president and will address the graduating class of roughly 475 students before commencement at the baccalaureate ceremony, on May 24.
“This is two years in a row where we have an exciting commencement,” Baker said. “Last year we had the bicentennial, and this year we have the retirement of a president, and that’s a special commencement.”
The decision about who should be the commencement speaker is made at least a year in advance, Baker said, as scheduling is crucial in making the event happen. A committee of college trustees, faculty members, students and administrators discuss potential speakers before it decides and a letter is sent from the president’s office, inviting the person.
“We always have a list of candidates in case someone says no,” Baker said, “but we don’t reveal the details of that list.”
Since the announcement last week, Baker said, she hasn’t talked to many students directly, but their online comments show they seem to be excited about the choice.
Other honorary degree recipients include poet Richard Blanco, who read at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration; William Chace, former president of Wesleyan and Emory universities and a professional mentor and good friend of Adams; and Colby College class of 1991 graduate Andrea Nix Fine, a documentary filmmaker who made the 2013 Academy Award-winning documentary short “Inocente.”