LEWISTON – Bates College announced this week that Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, will be its featured speaker at this year’s graduation ceremony on the Historic Quad.

Dr Nirav Shah Maine CDC

Shah will deliver the commencement address May 29 during a traditional ceremony for the first time since 2019 before the pandemic hit and forced a wide variety of changes at the college in a bid to protect public health.

In 2020, the college held its commencement remotely to award diplomas to graduating seniors in a virtual ceremony. Last year, it split the ceremony into two parts to limit exposure to other people who might have COVID-19.

This year, though, Shah will be speaking at an event that officials hope is close to the old norm, with few restrictions.

Guests who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine must be fully vaccinated and boosted or show they have tested negative within 48 hours of the beginning of the weekend events.

Programs will be mask-optional but campus buildings won’t be open except to let students move out.


Shah has already some advice to graduates.

On Tuesday, he told them on Twitter “there are two rules to success in this world” and cited as the first, “Don’t tell everyone all the rules for success.”

He left the second rule blank.

In addition to Shah, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree, Bates is also awarding honorary degrees to Michael Bonney, a 1980 graduate whose family funded the new Bonney Science Center; poet Nikki Giovanni; and the Rev. Becca Stevens, “whose Thistle Farms organization offers a healing framework for those who have experienced trafficking, prostitution and addiction.”

“We are proud and honored to welcome these inspiring individuals to Bates and to recognize their distinctive contributions with honorary degrees,” President Clayton Spencer said in a prepared statement. “Together they represent for our graduating seniors the power and fulfillment that come from hard work, generosity of spirit, and a determination to make a difference for others.”

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