WATERVILLE — The morning sun shone over Mayflower Hill on Sunday as members of the Colby College class of 2023 celebrated graduation.

The 543 new graduates took their seats on the lawn in front of Miller Library for the day’s commencement exercises, which included an address from political analyst Amy Walter and the conferral of five honorary degrees.

This year’s student speaker, chosen by her class, was Tovah Duffaut, an English major with a minor in anthropology from Raymond, New Hampshire. Duffaut serves as a sexual violence prevention peer educator at Colby, and a co-mentor for the college’s Office of Student Access & Disability Services.

Duffaut reflected fondly on her four years at Colby, but recalled well how she and many of her peers began their time on Mayflower Hill as “a ball of nerves,” feeling as if they did not belong on campus.

Coming from a small high school, Duffaut said she suffered from imposter syndrome.

“I was nervous I wasn’t smart enough to be here,” she said. “I didn’t have enough money to be here. I wasn’t outgoing enough, friendly enough or brave enough.”


Commencement speaker Amy Walter, right, begins her address Sunday morning as Colby College President David A. Greene looks on during the college’s graduation ceremony on Mayflower Hill in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Duffaut said it took missing Colby when the COVID-19 pandemic forced students from campus to feel like she could belong here. While away, she found herself craving the connections she feared making. And once back on campus, Duffaut began stepping out of her comfort zone.

Following Duffaut’s speech, Colby’s President David A. Greene introduced the commencement speaker, Amy Walter, whom he described as “the best political analyst in the country.”

Walter is the publisher and editor in chief of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, a weekly analysis of political issues, trends and events. She is also a frequent guest on “PBS NewsHour” and other news networks.

In her address to graduates, Walter said while students might feel anxious about graduating into a world “more disruptive, divisive, angrier than ever,” they will be OK.

“The real keys to success come not from getting the right job or the best graduate school,” said Walter, who graduated from Colby in 1991. “They come instead from knowing your own value and values.”

A Colby College graduate looks toward the crowd Sunday morning during the processional at the college’s graduation ceremony on Mayflower Hill in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

While traits of empathy, kindness and honesty are not always appreciated or rewarded, especially in Washington, D.C., or in politics, the analyst shared that those guiding values gave her an “internal GPS” that helped in navigating her early career.

“Focus less on what you’re going to do, focus more on who you’re going to be,” she said. “With that, you’ll never fail.”

Walter joined five others receiving honorary degrees at the ceremony, including award-winning broadcast journalist Amna Nawaz; Marcia and Daniel Minter, who cofounded the nonprofit arts incubator Indigo Arts Alliance in Portland; Dr. Loren Walensky, a pediatric oncologist and chemical biologist; and Gerald Talbot, the founding president of the Portland chapter of the Maine NAACP and the first Black American elected to the Maine State Legislature.

Honorary degrees are given to those who have made important contributions through their professional pursuits, commitment to community and generosity of spirit, according to Colby.

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