The Colgate Scene
July 2006

Commencement 2006:
Defining Colgate, becoming Colgate

The Class of 2006 refused to let persistent storm clouds dampen their spirits, letting fly their mortarboards when President Chopp announced the conferring of their degrees. [Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]

At the Class of 2006's commencement exercises on May 21, speaker Eliot Spitzer, attorney general of New York and Democratic candidate for governor, implored Colgate's graduates to stay in the Empire State "for the sake of our collective future." Prior to his 10-minute speech, delivered outside in a steady rain and 45-degree temperature, Spitzer received an honorary doctor of laws degree during the school's 185th Commencement.

While Spitzer acknowledged that nearly three-quarters of Colgate's graduates are not native New Yorkers, one could say that he appealed to the New Yorker in each of them.

"Never underestimate the power you hold. Set an example. Work yourself bleary-eyed. Be relentless. Demand more from yourselves, from your government, from your neighbors. Upend the status quo," he said. "Step up, and do it here in New York."

Spitzer, who has made a career of challenging the status quo, also cautioned them to "be prepared for pushback . . . The Wright Brothers were told that heavier-than-air flight was both impossible and contrary to the will of God. The Beatles were told that the guitar sound is on the way out. IBM engineers were told that there was no market for home computers.

Fast facts on the Class of 2006
Aleksandar A. Murdzhev,
Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria
Mathematics and economics major
Christopher G. Coutlee,
Geneva, N.Y.
Neuroscience major
Bachelor of arts degrees 693
Master of arts in teaching degrees 2
Elected to Phi Beta Kappa 35
Certified to teach 4
Hometown geographic representation 44 states
  17 nations
"The future doesn't belong to the army of the status quo. You couldn't fly, you couldn't rock, and you couldn't surf the web if it did."

In her remarks, President Rebecca S. Chopp said that the members of the Class of 2006 used their "knowledge, understanding, and insight to make a difference." She said she felt "a bit of nostalgia," because she will "never again have the thrill of watching my first class graduate.

"You and I arrived at Colgate at the same time," she noted. "We have learned together what this place means, we have made a difference to this place, and we have become Colgate together."

She charged the graduates to never stop doing good work. "Step forward with confidence," she told them. "Make a difference. Continue thinking and doing."

Honorary degrees were awarded to, from left, baccalaureate speaker Ada María Isasi-Díaz, professor of ethics and theology for Drew University; Walter Massey, president of Morehouse College and former director of the National Science Foundation (NSF); speaker Eliot Spitzer, attorney general of New York and Democratic candidate for governor; and Aminy Inati Audi and her husband, Alfred J. Audi '60, owners of L. & J.G. Stickley, Inc., who revived it from an ailing furniture company with 22 employees to a thriving international business. [Enlarge]

Voices of the senior class
Each member of the Class of 2006 has a unique story to tell about how Colgate defined them, and how they in turn helped to redefine the university. Like their classmates, these four seniors worked hard, embraced challenge, and did it all with a sense of fun and adventure. You can watch video interviews with them -- and several others -- on a special webpage where they discuss the range of options their Colgate degrees have afforded them. Go to

Pat Kabat
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Summa cum laude, honors in history, Phi Beta Kappa
Major: History
Activities: Orchestra and jazz band, debate society, Student Lecture Forum, residential adviser, community coordinator, fencing team
Next step: Yale Law School

To hear Pat Kabat speak about his future, you'd never know that at one point he was uncertain of where he was headed.

For a while he thought about playing music professionally. After conducting archival research at Oxford University while participating in Colgate's London Study Group, he tossed around the idea of becoming a professor.

But then he landed a research internship with the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Seeing firsthand the political corruption in some of the state's courts, he said, inspired him to settle on law.

By all measures, he's ready for the competitive environment of Yale Law School. In 2005, he was named to USA Today's All-USA College Academic Team, which honors students for their "outstanding intellectual achievement and leadership." An avid debater who revitalized the university's award-winning Harry C. Behler Debate Society, he cut his teeth trading verbal jabs with internationally known orators in debate tournaments. And he's got the presentation skills that are so critical to a legal career. He founded, directed, and has participated regularly for the past three years in the Student Lecture Forum, which enables undergraduates to present their scholarly work outside of the classroom.

Amanda Nicodemus
Wappingers Falls, N.Y.
Majors: Classical studies and sociology and anthropology
Activities: Gamma Phi Beta, Link staff, club tennis, Maroon-News, senior admission intern
Next step: Sotheby's, New York City

Melding her interest in the classics with a love of art and international travel, Amanda Nicodemus has landed -- with help from an alumna -- a job at Sotheby's in New York City. The floater program will give her the opportunity to work in various departments at the prestigious auction house, including those focusing on contemporary prints, ancient and ethnographic arts, jewelry, and marketing.

Catharine Becket '93, a cataloguer for Sotheby's, set up an interview for Nicodemus, leading to her acceptance in the six-month paid program. Nicodemus can then apply for a permanent position, and she's hoping to explore jobs in Sotheby's Milan and London offices.

Nicodemus has always had an interest in the arts, and enjoyed taking art and art history courses and spending time in Little Hall and Dana Arts Center at Colgate. Her interest in the classics, in comparison, emerged only after she attended a first-year seminar with professor Albert Ammerman.

"He had high expectations, but at the same time he fascinated all of us with his stories about Italy, and Greek and Roman civilizations," she said. Another course -- Material Culture of Rome and Pompeii -- had an extended study component that involved travel to those two cities. That trip sparked her love affair with Italy.

Nicodemus is now looking forward to her move into the professional world with a company she feels is a perfect fit for her academic and personal passions.

Sheri Bontrager receives congratulations from diving coach Matt Leone.

Krissy Williams
Scarborough, Trinidad and Tobago
Cum laude, honors in physics
Major: Physics
Activities: Konosioni, Caribbean Students Association, Society of Physics Students, Sigma Pi Sigma, Delta Delta Delta, Physics tutor, Newman Community
Next step: Biophysics doctorate program, University of Rochester

Krissy Williams has been the superconductor of Colgate physics. The passion she has for her work, particularly in biophysics, flows freely -- there's no resistance impeding this transfer of energy.

Williams helped revitalize the Colgate chapters of the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma, a prestigious physics honor society. She was the only student on the Educational Advisory Committee of the American Institute of Physics. Her research, which ranges from cell membranes to superconductivity, has earned her appearances and prizes at national conferences.

Williams will transfer her energy to the University of Rochester, where she has been accepted into the highly touted biophysics doctorate program.

"I want to be a professor," she said. "I like working with people -- I've been a tutor since my sophomore year -- but I also want to do research."

Coming to Colgate from her home in Trinidad and Tobago, Williams immediately joined the Caribbean Student Association. She has been an active participant, helping organize numerous events that introduced her culture to campus. She played club ice hockey for two years, and learned to downhill ski her final semester. "I mastered the bunny slope," she said. Williams became lead singer of a student band after being "discovered" singing in her residence hall shower. The band won several competitions and performed at numerous campus functions.

Whether she's singing a song she's written or talking about her biophysics projects, it's hard to miss Williams's energy, which flows without resistance.

Marc Frankel
Chappaqua, N.Y.
Cum laude, high honors in Russian
Major: Russian studies
Activities: Men's squash, admission tour guide, Blue Diamond Society (Jewish philanthropy group), emergency medical technician
Next step: Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

Marc Frankel caught the travel bug on a backpacking trip to Australia and Fiji the summer before he started at Colgate. That itch to see other nations and experience other cultures only intensified during his college years.

He spent a week in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he attended an academic conference and presented a paper he wrote for a Russian studies class. He toured Beijing with an extended study group connected with his Comparative Health Systems course. He trekked to the small community of Birobidzhan in eastern Siberia to conduct research for his senior thesis. On his way home, he managed to squeeze in a four-day trip to Seoul, South Korea.

No surprise, then, that when Frankel talks about his plans to travel to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Sao Tome and Principe, Morocco, Argentina, and Brazil to study small Jewish communities through a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, he does so with barely a hint of nervousness about his solo trek.

That's because Frankel, who is Jewish, views the experience as a personal journey: "Seeing how Judaism and the various cultures have been defined in these different regions will, I'm sure, impact me and my faith. I'm really looking forward to the different types of people I'll be meeting -- and the different areas of the world I'll get to see."

Top of page
Table of contents
<< Previous: ...key Greek-letter post Next: Thirsty business >>