Colby College senior Bethashley Cajuste has been honored with the Condon Medal for exhibiting the finest qualities of citizenship and making the most significant contribution to the development of college life.

Cajuste, of Tampa, Florida, was surprised with the accolade earlier this week by Colby President David A. Greene, who announced the award to her via Vimeo. The recording was aired to the public at 11 a.m. Saturday during a  presentation of the annual Student Awards event.

That event is usually is held in Lorimer Chapel on the Colby campus followed by a reception in Cotter Union, but was virtual this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Viewers watched the event at colby.edu/celebrate2020/student-awards.

Colby College President David A. Greene, right, presents the Condon Medal virtually to senior Bethashley Cajuste during a recorded video released Saturday as part of Colby’s Student Awards event. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

Before honoring Cajuse, Greene explained the Condon Medal was established in 1920 through the bequest of Randall J. Condon, an 1886 Colby graduate.

“The medal has been presented annually with the exception of the World War II years,” he said. “We don’t need reminding that once again, in 2020, we are living through a historic period and many of our traditions will have to be done differently. I will present the Condon Medal, which honors the finest qualities of constructive citizenship, when we hold a formal commencement.”

In the meantime, he said, he was delighted to announce Cajuste as the Condon Medal winner. She came to Colby, he said, as both a QuestBridge Scholar and a member of the Colby Achievement Program.

“Her distinguished arrival at Colby was truly just the beginning,” Greene said. “This member of your class became the first QuestBridge liaison, a sexual violence prevention peer, executive chair of the Pugh Community Board and a co-creator of the FLIPS program.”

QuestBridge, with which Colby is a partner,  recruits and enrolls exceptional and talented students in the country’s best colleges and universities, regardless of a student’s ability to pay. The Achievement Program in the sciences is for incoming Colby students from groups that traditionally have been underrepresented in the sciences. The FLIPS program is the First-Generation-to-College/Low-Income Program for Student Success.

“Her distinguished award at Colby is truly just the beginning,” Greene said.

Cajuste, who majored in global health and minored in anthropology, was deeply committed to community, connecting her academic and civic engagement work through her research projects, according to Greene.

“So can I give you some good news?” Greene asked Cajuste via Vimeo, just before his announcement. “Because everybody needs good news right now, right? We all need good news. I want to tell you that you’ve been chosen by the senior class and by the faculty at Colby to be the 2020 Condon medal winner.”

Cajuste was speechless and lowered her head. She then smiled broadly.

“I’m going to cry — oh my goodness,” she said, her father seen clapping in the background.

“I wish we could be doing this in person with people cheering you, but know that we are cheering you,” Greene told Cajuste. “You’ve done so much at Colby. This is the only award at the college that’s given out at commencement. It’s the only award that is voted on by both the students and the faculty and the faculty voted unanimously this week for you on this and your peers voted for you on this. And for all the work that you’ve done with the Pugh Community Board, all that you’ve done on domestic violence, on sexual violence, what you’ve done in the community here and I mean the community at Colby, I mean the community in Waterville, you’ve made such a difference here.”

Greene ended by thanking Cajuste for everything she did to make such a difference in her four years at Colby. He said earlier in the video that he would present the award to her in person, in the future.

Also during the awards event, Karlene A. Burrell-McRae, dean of the college, announced members of the Class of 2020 had voted for Kabir Singh to be commencement speaker. Burrell-McRae described Singh as a dedicated member of the Colby community who has a “passion for activism in environmental and social justice and a contagious desire to improve the lives around him.”

Singh, who will speak at Sunday’s virtual Celebration of the Class of 2020, had a double major in anthropology and environmental policy and played an active role in the Oak International Institute for Human Rights Student Committee, according to Burrell-McRae. The public may view the celebration at 11 a.m. Sunday at colby.edu/celebrate2020/celebration2020.

Colby officials said a special working group of mostly seniors and some faculty and staff will determine whether and when to hold an official commencement or gathering event in the future.

Burrell-McRae said Singh collaborated on many Colby building projects, studying the impacts of toxic materials, and did extensive research with faculty, allowing him the opportunity to co-write a published book chapter. Singh also worked effectively with peers as a member of the Anthropology Student Board, Colby Improv, the South Asian Student Society and Colby Dancers, and was a peer educator for student health, she said.

“This student has had a tremendous impact on … campus culture and possesses a gifted ability to connect with others,” she said, adding that she was thrilled to announced Singh had been chosen by the class to speak.

“Congratulations to Kabir and to every member of the Class of 2020,” Burrell-McRae said.

Colby Provost Margaret McFadden, who also is dean of faculty, welcomed the virtual audience Saturday.

Every year, she said, Colby recognizes more than 100 campus leaders, mostly seniors, who exemplify the college’s values, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Every year Colby is grateful to have the opportunity to celebrate exceptional student achievement in many areas of campus life, including excellent academic work, transformative service, powerful co-curricular leadership and inspiring athletic accomplishments.

“While we know every Colby student makes an important impact on our community, we thank the students being honored today for their extraordinary contributions,” McFadden said. “Their hard work, commitment and passion have made Colby a better place.”

While circumstances this year prevented the awards event from occurring at Lorimer, with a reception in Cotter Union,  the college still takes great pleasure in having the opportunity to recognize outstanding achievements, according to McFadden.

“This is the culmination of four years of hard work and dedication,” she said. “We appreciate everything you have brought to our community and we know many more great accomplishments are ahead for each and every one of you. Happy summer.”


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