Colby College

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Colby College
Colby College Seal.svg
Seal of Colby College
MottoLux Mentis Scientia (Latin)
Motto in EnglishKnowledge is the Light of the Mind
Endowment$650 million (2013) [1]
PresidentWilliam D. "Bro" Adams
Academic staff171 full time and 48 part time
LocationWaterville, Maine, USA
Athletics32 varsity teams, 11 club teams

     Royal Blue

     Priscilla Grey
Colby College Logo.svg
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Colby College
Colby College Seal.svg
Seal of Colby College
MottoLux Mentis Scientia (Latin)
Motto in EnglishKnowledge is the Light of the Mind
Endowment$650 million (2013) [1]
PresidentWilliam D. "Bro" Adams
Academic staff171 full time and 48 part time
LocationWaterville, Maine, USA
Athletics32 varsity teams, 11 club teams

     Royal Blue

     Priscilla Grey
Colby College Logo.svg

Colby College is a private liberal arts college located on Mayflower Hill in Waterville, Maine, USA. Founded in 1813, it is the 12th-oldest independent liberal arts college in the United States. Colby was the first all-male college in New England to accept female students in 1871.[2]

Approximately 1,800 students from more than 60 countries are enrolled annually. The college offers 54 major fields of study and 30 minors. More than two thirds of Colby students participate in study abroad programs. Colby College competes in the NESCAC conference and is one of the "Little Ivies".



The Charter of Colby College, granted in 1813 by the Massachusetts Legislature.

On February 27, 1813, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts adopted a petition to establish the Maine Literary and Theological Institution, the 33rd chartered college in the United States.[3] The petition was led by Baptists who had come to the region for missionary work, and who wanted to train their own ministers, to end the reliance on England for providing men of learning. From 1816-1818, the new institution found a home in Waterville on 179 acres of land donated by citizens. In 1818, trustees assigned the institution to Rev. Jeremiah Chaplin, a Baptist theologian. Chaplin arrived in Waterville in the summer of 1818 with his family and seven students, including George Dana Boardman, the institution's first graduate. They were put up in a vacant Waterville home, and in that home the first classes were held.[3]

After Maine separated from Massachusetts in 1820, the first Maine legislature affirmed the Massachusetts charter for the institution, but made significant changes. Students could no longer be denied admission based on religion, the institution was prohibited from applying a religious test when selecting board members, and the trustees now had the authority to grant degrees. A turning point, the Maine Literary and Theological Institution was renamed Waterville College on February 5, 1821. In 1822, Elijah Parish Lovejoy, who would become a celebrated martyr to emancipation and to freedom of the press, graduated as valedictorian. In 1825, the theological department was discontinued.[4] In 1833, Rev. Rufus Babcock became Colby's second president, and students formed the nation’s first college-based anti-slavery society.[5] In 1845, the college's first Greek Society was formed, a chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon, which was followed by chapters of Zeta Psi in 1850 and Delta Upsilon in 1852.[6]

During the Civil War, many young men were called away from school to join the fight; from Waterville College, Richard C. Shannon, Henry C. Merriam, and Benjamin Butler. Twenty-seven Waterville College students perished in the war, and more than 100 men from the town. In the years following the war, as was the case at many American colleges, Waterville College was left with few students remaining to pay the bills and a depleted endowment. Waterville College was on the verge of closing.[3]

Colby University[edit]

Colby University Logo
The emblem of Colby University, c. 1895

On August 9, 1865, a Boston merchant, prominent Baptist philanthropist and Maine native Gardner Colby attended Waterville College's commencement dinner, and unbeknownst to anyone in attendance except college president James Tift Champlin, announced a matching $50,000 donation that would allow the college to remain open. On January 23, 1867, the college was renamed Colby University in gratitude.[7]

Now on solid financial footing and just 16 months after The Battle of Appomattox Court House, trustees of the college voted to construct a library and chapel to honor the Colby men who died in the war, making Memorial Hall the first Civil War memorial erected on a college campus. The building began construction in the summer of 1867, and was dedicated at commencement in 1869.[3] At commencement in 1871, The Lion of Lucerne, a sculpture by Martin Milmore, was added as the centerpiece of the building. The lion was brought to Miller Library from Memorial Hall in January 1962.[8]

In the fall of 1871 Colby University was the first all-male college in New England to accept female students.[4] The national Sigma Kappa sorority was founded at Colby in 1874 by the college's first five female students.[9] One of the buildings is named after the first woman to attend, Mary Caffrey Low, who was the valedictorian of the Class of 1875.[2]

Colby College[edit]

On January 25, 1889, Colby president Nathaniel Butler, Jr. '73, having come from the University of Chicago, renamed the "university" Colby College.[10] In 1920, Colby celebrated its centennial, marking not the date of the original charter, but the date of its charter from the new State of Maine in 1820.

Mayflower Hill[edit]

Mayflower Hill Construction Plan
The original development plan for the new Mayflower Hill campus, c. 1935

Franklin W. Johnson was appointed president of the college in June 1929. Citing a recently released Maine Higher Education Survey Report, a cramped location between the Kennebec River and the Maine Central Railroad Company tracks through Waterville, and an aging physical plant (amongst others), Johnson began a campaign to move the college to a more adequate location.[3] Franklin's campaign to raise funds for the move were complicated by the Great Depression, but ended up including a gift from the City of Waterville; in an effort to keep Colby from relocating to Augusta, Waterville deeded 600 acres (2.4 km2) on Mayflower Hill, near the outskirts of the city, to the college.[11]

In 1937 and according to master plans drawn up by Jens Frederick Larson, construction broke ground on Lorimer Chapel, the first building on the new Mayflower Hill campus. In 1951, the last class took place on the old campus in Coburn Hall.

In 1984, following an investigation of campus life commissioned by the Board of Trustees, a decision was made to withdraw recognition from Colby’s Greek system as it was seen to be "exclusionary by nature".[12]

In 2000, William D. Adams became the President of Colby. As of 2013, major accomplishments include a strategic plan for the college,[13] numerous construction projects including expansion onto the Colby Green, accepting a major gift - the Lunder Collection of American Art - and conducting the largest capital campaign in the history of Maine which raised $376 million.[14]


University rankings
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[16]22
Washington Monthly[17]84

Students choose from courses in 54 major fields and have wide flexibility in designing independent study programs, electing special majors, and participating in internships and study-abroad programs. Colby emphasizes project-based learning.[18] Colby's most popular majors are Government, Economics, and Biology. Volunteer programs and service learning take many students into the surrounding community.

4–1–4 Calendar[edit]

The academic year follows a 4–1–4 with two four-course semesters plus a Winter Term session in January. The Winter Term, often called "Jan-plan", allows students to enroll in one intensive course, pursue independent research, or complete an off-campus internship.


Together with Bates College and Bowdoin College, Colby is one of three highly selective liberal arts colleges in Maine. The 2014 annual ranking of U.S. News & World Report categorizes it as 'more selective' and rates it tied for the 22nd best liberal arts college in the nation[19] and 23rd for "Best Value".[20]

Forbes in 2013 rated Colby 49th overall in its America's Top Colleges ranking, which includes military academies, national universities, and liberal arts colleges[21] and 12th among national liberal arts colleges in 2012.[22]

Kiplinger's Personal Finance places Colby at 12th in its 2012 ranking of best-value liberal arts colleges in the United States.[23]

Colby was also named one of "25 New Ivies" by Newsweek,[24] named to the list of the top ten environmental programs by the 2010 Fiske Guide,[25] and ranked 13th by the 2011 Sierra Club rankings of America's coolest schools.[26]

Graduate School Placement[edit]

Colby is very successful in its graduate placement of alumni. In 2005, the Wall Street Journal ranked Colby among the top 50 "feeder schools" of elite graduate institutions.[27]


Colby Students and Faculty receive scholarships for advanced study. Colby students have received scholarships including Rhodes Scholarships,[28] Udall Scholarships,[29] Fulbright Program grants,[30] and others. There are 13 scholarships for which a particular Faculty Advisor is assigned to assist students in pursuing.[31][32]

The Goldfarb Center[edit]

The Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement organizes Colby's engagement in the local community, the national stage, and throughout the world.[33] The Goldfarb Center has assumed responsibility for organizing and awarding the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award annually, established in 1952[34][35] it also organizes the The Morton A. Brody Distinguished Judicial Service Award,[36] the William R. and Linda K. Cotter Debate Series, the Senator George J. Mitchell Distinguished International Lecture Series, and Colby's Visiting Fellows Program. The Oak Institute for International Human Rights at Colby is a Goldfarb Center program.[37] The center also organizes Colby's civic engagement programs, the Colby Volunteer Center and Colby Cares about Kids. The college earned a top-25 listing on the Peace Corps' "ranking of colleges that produce the most volunteers."[38][39]


Miller Library at dusk.

Colby's 714-acre campus is situated on Mayflower Hill overlooking the small city of Waterville, Maine, located along the Kennebec River Valley in Central Maine. Colby's campus buildings vary in age from the original Mayflower Hill construction in the 1930s to its newest building, Diamond, completed in 2007. Most of Colby's buildings are designed in the Georgian Revival style of the original Mayflower Hill construction, but recent architectural additions have largely branched out.


Colby’s three libraries—Miller Library, the Bixler Art and Music Library, and the Olin Science Library—have a collection of more than 900,000 books, journals, microfilms, music scores, sound recordings, videos/DVDs, and manuscripts. They provide access to more than 100 electronic databases and more than 47,500 electronic journals. Computer labs, wireless networks, laptops, study areas, and a listening center are available for student use.[40][41]

Colby College Museum of Art[edit]

The Colby College Museum of Art was founded in 1959 with the building of the Mayflower Hill Campus. Admission is free to the museum, which serves both as a teaching resource for Colby College and as an active cultural institution for the residents of Maine and visitors to the state. It is notable for an entire wing dedicated to works by American painter Alex Katz, a particularly strong collection of American art, and its major outdoor sculptures by Richard Serra and Sol LeWitt. The museum is part of the Bixler Art and Music Center, a building named in honor of President J. Seelye Bixler (1942–1960) in recognition of his visionary support for the arts at Colby.[42] The most recent addition to the museum was the Alfond-Lunder wing, opened in 2013 to display the recently donated Lunder Collection of American Art, valued at over $100 million.[43] The gallery space in the museum now exceeds 38,000 square feet, surpassing the Portland Museum of Art and making it the largest art museum in Maine.[44]

Housing and Student Life Facilities[edit]

Anthony-Mitchell-Schupf, a residence hall constructed in 1997.

Colby is a residential college and almost all students live on campus.[45] The dormitories vary in design and age; some are from the original Mayflower Hill construction, with the newest addition being the Alfond Senior Apartments. Room arrangements range from singles to quads and apartment suites.

Cotter Union is the center of student life and programming, and houses the Pulver Pavilion, Pugh Center for Multicultural Affairs, Page Commons audtiorium, and the Student Post Office. Mary Low contains the Colby Outing Club and the Mary Low Coffee House for student performances, Roberts houses student offices for the Colby Echo and the radio station WMHB.[46]

All meals and catered events on campus are served by Colby Dining Services, operated by Sodexo, which makes a concentrated effort to purchase foods from suppliers and producers within the state of Maine, like Oakhurst Dairy and others.[47] Dining-hall options include 4 separate establishments on Campus, plus the Marchese Blue Light Pub.

Athletic Facilities[edit]

The Harold Alfond Athletic Center is the center of athletic life at Colby, and home to the Colby White Mules. It contains the Wadsworth Gymnasium,with a capacity of 2,600 people, the Alfond Rink with 1,750 seats, the Colby swimming pool, The Dunaway Squash Courts, the Boulos Family Fitness Center, and a field house with a four-lane, 220-yard track, and athletic offices, [48]

Surrounding the Harold Alfond Athetlic Center are the Harold Alfond Stadium and track, two illuminated synthetic turf fields, the Alfond-Wales Tennis Courts, three full-size grass playing fields, a baseball diamond, a softball diamond, and the Perkins Arboretum with cross-country running trails.

In addition to the on-campus facilities, the White Mules also utilize numerous off-campus facilities. The Colby-Hume Center for Colby's crew and sailing teams is located on Messalonskee Lake. Sugarloaf Ski Resort is home to the Alpine Ski Team, and is used extensively by recreational skiers from Colby because of its proximity to campus, about 50 miles away. The Waterville Country Club is home to Colby's golf program.

Green Colby[edit]

Colby's Biomass Plant, constructed in 2011.

In the fall of 2009, Colby launched Green Colby[49] to highlight Colby's environmental policies (carbon footprint, conservation, student involvement etc.).[50] The school has signed a number of official agreements to reduce its environmental impact, including the Maine Governor’s Carbon Challenge and the American College and University President's Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). As of April 2013, Colby became the 4th institution of higher education to achieve campus carbon neutrality.[51][52] [53] [54]

All of the school's electricity comes from renewable sources[55] —hydro and biomass—with 10 percent of campus electricity provided by an on-campus cogeneration turbine.[52][specify] The college has stated that all new buildings will comply with a minimum LEED silver standard, and renovated buildings will also include green features.[52] The dining halls make an effort to purchase local and organic foods, and the elimination of trays has saved 79,000 gallons of water and 50 tons of food waste annually.[52][specify] Colby also has an ambitious composting program which processes more than 100 tons of food and yard waste annually.[52] On the College Sustainability Report Card 2009 Colby earned a B; Colby's grade was brought down by its lack of endowment transparency and shareholder engagement.[56]

Student Life[edit]

Colby’s 1,800-plus students, evenly divided between men and women, come from virtually every state and more than 60 countries. Colby students are listed as 62-percent white, 18-percent unknown race, 14.5-percent ALANA (Asian American, Latino/a, African American, Native American), and 5.3-percent international (2009–10).[57] Colby's class of 2014 is the most diverse in its history, with 24% of its students being ALANA and 7% being international.[58]

Colby's was one of the five original schools to partner with the Shelby Davis Scholarship program for graduates from the United World Colleges, dramatically increasing the international student population.[59] Colby also participates in the Posse Foundation for multicultural scholars. In 2005, Colby was profiled by NAFSA's Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization.[60]

Student Organizations[edit]

Wiz Khalifa at Colby College - May 2011

The college hosts myriad student-run organizations, ranging from student-run government to a cappella groups and more.

The Student Government Association (SGA) advises and interacts with college administration on issues ranging from policies and procedures to class presidents and dorm heads; it is also responsible for allocating funding to other student-run organizations.[61] The Student Planning Board is responsible for the Entertainment Committee which plans speaking events, concerts, and live music, and the social committee which plans dances and other gatherings.[62]

Other student organizations range from a radio station and a newspaper to the Woodsman's team, the Colby Outing Club, and more.


The Colby Mules compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III New England Small College Athletic Conference, and the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Consortium.[63] There are 16 varsity teams for women, 15 for men, and one co-ed team. The official school colors are blue and gray. Approximately 1/3 of the student population participates in one or more of 32 intercollegiate varsity sports. Colby also offers club sports and an intramural sports program called I-Play. As of 2013, 5 graduates have qualified for the Olympic Games.[64]

First Year Experience[edit]

In 1975 Colby instituted its first outdoor orientation trip. The program, which has been expanded to include on-campus orientation and is called COOT2, now offers 52 trips in the fall semester and an ICED COOT program for those students who spend the first semester of their freshman year abroad. Destinations for fall trips include hiking trips at Acadia National Park, Mount Katahdin, and other locations around Maine; canoe trips on the Kennebec and Moose Rivers, along with other trips around the state. The various trips are designed to appeal to incoming students with a variety of interests and fitness levels and more "front country" trips have been added in recent years including service- and arts-oriented options.[65] The primary goals of COOT are to ease new students' transition into college and to introduce them to the Maine's cultural and natural resources. COOT leaders are chosen from upperclass students who apply for these positions and are expected to help the students both during and after the trip with the adjustment to campus life.[65]


Notable Alumni[edit]

White House Chief of Staff, Pete Rouse, class of 1968

Alumni, now numbering more than 25,000, are represented in all 50 states and 75 foreign countries.[66] Alumni remain engaged with the College through alumni programs, affinity groups, and a directory and related services online, all offered by the Office of Alumni Relations.

Notable Faculty[edit]

Colby employs 216 instructional faculty members, approximately 90% whom hold a doctorate or other terminal degree.[67] Prominent faculty date back to the Baptists who founded the college, and have grown to include modern scholars like Jonathan M. Weiss, novelists including Richard Russo and Jennifer Finney Boylan, and civic leaders like Franklin W. Johnson, the only alumnus to serve as the president of the college.


The President and Trustees of Colby College is an IRS 501(c) organization with over $1 Billion in assets in 2011.[68] Administration is made up of a president, officers, a board of trustees with faculty and student representation, and a board of overseers.[69]

Insignia and other representations[edit]

A special seal designed for the bicentennial celebration of the college in 2013

Seal and motto[edit]

"Lux Mentis Scientia", meaning "learning is the light of the mind", is the college's motto. It surrounds the Seal of Colby College. A special seal was developed for the college's bicentennial celebration in 2013.

Alma mater[edit]

Colby's alma mater is "Hail, Colby, Hail". The lyrics to the song were written by Karl R. Kennison from the class of 1906 and it is sung to the tune of "O Canada". In 1979, the second line was changed from "thy sons from far and near" to "thy people far and near."[70]

Hail, Colby, Hail!
Thy people far and near
Stand at thy call,
Our Alma Mater dear.
Thy shaded paths recall our steps
To gather at thy shrine.
Thy memoried halls reclaim our hearts
Till all our thoughts are thine.
Hail, Colby, Hail!
Hail, Colby, Hail!
To thee we lift our hearts and homage pay;
Our Alma Mater, Hail the Blue and Gray!

Mascots, Nicknames, and other Symbols[edit]

Morty the Mule is a costume that appears at athletic events.[71]

In Popular Culture[edit]

In the movie Wet Hot American Summer, the reference to "the local college" is Colby. In the fifth episode of the first season of the HBO television drama series The Sopranos, Tony Soprano takes Meadow Soprano on a trip to visit colleges, of which Colby is one.


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  4. ^ a b Maine League of Historical Societies and Museums (1970). Doris A. Isaacson, ed. Maine: A Guide 'Down East'. Rockland, Me: Courier-Gazette, Inc. pp. 226–227. 
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  6. ^ Colby College 1820-1925: An Account of Its Beginnings, Progress and Service, Edwin Carey Whittemore
  7. ^ Colby College 1820-1925: An Account of Its Beginnings, Progress and Service, p 93, accessed at
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  54. ^ "Signatory List by Institution Name". American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment. Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°33′51″N 69°39′47″W / 44.56417°N 69.66306°W / 44.56417; -69.66306