William D. Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, will be the featured speaker at Lafayette’s 181st Commencement on Saturday, May 21.

Adams served as president of Colby College in Waterville, Maine, from 2000 until his retirement in 2014. He is a committed advocate of liberal arts education with a long history of leadership in higher education and the humanities.

As senior president of the prestigious New England Small College Athletic Conference, Adams has been at the center of the national conversation about the cost and value of liberal arts education.


Commencement Speaker William Adams, photo courtesy of Colby College.

“I see the power of what is happening on our campuses and among the alumni I meet across the country and around the world,” he says. “People who engage in a profound way with a broad range of disciplines—including, and in some cases especially, with the humanities—are preparing to engage the challenges of life. They are creative and flexible thinkers. They acquire the habits of mind needed to find solutions to important problems. They can even appreciate the value of making mistakes and changing their minds. I am convinced that this kind of study is not merely defensible but critical to our national welfare.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Colorado College and a doctorate through the History of Consciousness program at University of California, Santa Cruz. He studied in France as a Fulbright Scholar before beginning his career in higher education with appointments to teach political philosophy at Santa Clara University in California and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He later coordinated the Great Works in Western Culture program at Stanford University and served as vice president and secretary of Wesleyan University. In 1995, he was named president of Bucknell University.

Learn more about Mr. Adams and the three other distinguished individuals who will receive honorary degrees at Commencement.

Visit the Commencement website for additional information and schedules.