Colby-Sawyer College celebrated its 186th Commencement on Saturday, May 4, on the college’s New London campus. The ceremony celebrated the graduating students in the Class of 2024 who were awarded eight associate degrees, 153 bachelor’s degrees and 41 master’s degrees. It also recognized several members of the college and greater community for academic excellence, outstanding contributions to society and service to the college and its students.

In her remarks to graduates, Colby-Sawyer President Susan D. Stuebner, who will leave the college in June after eight years in office, shared the lessons she will take with her from her experience at the college.

“Probably the aspect of Colby-Sawyer that inspires me the most is the power of relationships cultivated here,” Stuebner said. “Each of you has forged special relationships with your faculty, with staff and with your peers. … As you leave today with your diploma in hand, beyond symbolizing your accomplishments and hard work, let it also be a reminder of the meaningful relationships you will carry with you and on which you can lean throughout the years ahead.”

Student speaker Riley Keezer, from Andover, New Hampshire, also commented on the importance of the connections this class developed with each other and how they’ve imbued each other with the strength to overcome setbacks.

“I hope you all learned that it’s okay to mess up and make a mistake,” Keezer told his fellow graduates in his speech titled “Proudly Chargers: Navigating Uncertainty, Achieving Greatness.” “But those losses and moments of failure will only motivate us to be wiser and more patient in the future. … Despite the challenges we faced, we stand here today stronger, wiser and more determined than ever to make a difference in the world.”

As recipient of the Jack Jensen Award for Excellence in Teaching, School of Nursing & Health Sciences Associate Professor Ann Fournier delivered the Commencement Address, titled “‘/'ôrdnˌerē/.” Fournier, a professor of nursing, spoke to the graduates about learning to appreciate the ordinary in everyday life.

“How easily we might overlook, fail to steward, the reorienting power of love, beauty and joy if we always seek the next thing,” Fournier said. “It is through the focus on the simple fact that the ordinary may be the thing we seek that we build authentic connection with ourselves, with each other and the world around us. Nurturing our capacity to notice the ordinary awakens our collective experience.”

Several individuals were honored for significant achievement during the 90-minute ceremony. Chesley Smith ’24, a history and political studies major from Stowe, Vermont, received the David H. Winton Baccalaureate Award for ranking highest in scholarship among the graduating class. Nursing major Erin Lamb ’24, of Wallingford, Connecticut, received the Colby-Sawyer Award, which is given to the graduate who, in the opinion of the faculty, best exemplifies the ideals of the college in personal dignity, intellectual growth, contribution to campus life and constructive influence on other students.

Alumna and member of the Colby-Sawyer Board of Trustees Deborah L. Coffin ’76 was awarded the Susan Colgate Cleveland Medal for Distinguished Service, the college’s highest honor. Coffin’s father received the same award 24 years ago. Deborah and the Coffin family have been consistent supporters of the college for many years, and Coffin has further demonstrated her commitment to the college and community of New London through her work as a teacher, a therapist, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, and an accomplished artisan. She has been a loyal donor to the Colby-Sawyer Fund and is a member of the Heritage Soci­ety, which recognizes individuals who’ve made provisions for Colby-Sawyer in their estate plans. In 2014, the Coffin family was inducted into Colby-Sawyer’s Legends Society for life­time giving totaling more than $1 million.

More information about Commencement award winners is available at