Living the Offer

The original version of the Offer of the College was written over 100 years ago. The Offer sums up the impact Bowdoin graduates can make  — at home in all lands, keys to the world’s libraries in their pocket, hosts of friends, prepared and equipped to be a leader-innovator for the common good in any field they choose. It’s no wonder the contribution this small college has made to history seems disproportionate to its size. At the very moment you read this, Bowdoin graduates around the globe are translating the Offer in thousands of ways — their own ways. Following are just a few examples of how members of the Bowdoin community are living the Offer:

  • Hanley Denning
  • George Mitchell
  • Karen Mills Francis
  • William J. Oppenheim III
  • Geoffrey Canada
  • Sara Gagne-Holmes
  • Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
  • Lisa McElaney
  • Joan Benoit Samuelson
  • Reed Hastings
  • Dora Anne Mills
  • Gorman
  • Frank N. Whittier
  • Jane Buchanan
  • Thomas H. Andrews
  • Marcia Barinaga
  • Esther Baker
  • Bernard Osher
  • Matt Marolda
  • Suzanne Fox
  • Alison McConnell
  • Victor Fields
  • Leslie Blickenstaff
  • Ed Lee
  • Everett
  • Kelly Kerney
  • Jennifer Black
  • John Brown Russwurn

Hanley Denning '92

After graduating from Bowdoin, Hanley worked on behalf of at-risk children while earning her master’s degree in education at Wheelock College in North Carolina. During a visit to Guatemala, a chance visit to the Guatemala City garbage dump changed her life. Seeing the depths of poverty experienced by those living in the garbage dump, Hanley knew the reality facing children living there was unlike anything she had ever seen and was compelled to do something. That very same week Hanley sold her computer and car, and using some money from her savings, opened the doors of Safe Passage. Unable to afford the cost of public school, forty of Guatemala’s poorest children received tutoring, a healthy snack, and the care and attention they so desperately needed.

Today Safe Passage provides more than 550 children with education and social services. Most are the first in their families to go to school. Read more...


George Mitchell '54

George Mitchell is no stranger to high-profile investigations. The former federal judge and member of the Bowdoin Class of 1954 rose to national prominence in 1987 as a United States Senator when he faced Marine Colonel Oliver North during the highly-charged Senate Iran-Contra hearings, famously reminding North that "God doesn't take sides in American politics."

After leaving the Senate, Mitchell would be tapped in December 1998 to lead an investigation into a bribery scandal surrounding the Salt Lake City Olympics. He was also the first choice to co-chair the 9/11 Commission investigation, a position he declined.

An avid sports fan and a director of the Boston Red Sox, Mitchell agreed in March 2006 to a request by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, to investigate widespread allegations that baseball players had illegally used steroids and other performance enhancing substances. Nearly twenty-one months later, on December 13, 2007, Mitchell released his 409-page report, prompting a media hoopla that refuses to die. The report details a history of drug use in baseball, assesses Major League Baseball's drug policies, and provides recommendations for ways in which baseball can move forward to prevent future drug use. But the report also names names - eighty-six names, including seven MVPs and thirty-one All-Stars.

President Barack Obama appointed Senator Mitchell as his special envoy for Palestinian-Israeli affairs on January 22, 2009.


Karen Mills Francis '82

As a public defender for four years, Karen had more than a few bones to pick with her fellow men and women of the law. The defining moment came when Karen saw eight juvenile offenders placed in jail during a lengthy lead up to their trials. Karen took over the cases and filed demands for speedy trials. She then represented each of them in court and stayed with them until they were released. In the end, she adopted one of the boys who had no family to go home to. Karen’s decision to become a judge came more out of curiosity than frustration. She was officially invested into office as County Court Judge on February 9, 2001, and presided over Miami (Florida) Dade County Courthouse for eight years.

Then, there’s her television show, Judge Karen. The show covers civil and small claims cases in a setting resembling an actual courtroom. Unlike other popular court programs, Judge Karen follows courtroom protocol as closely as possible in hopes of creating more of a “courtroom drama” than a reality television show. "It’s nice because I can talk to people,” says Karen, “but I don’t get to put anyone in jail." Read more...


William J. Oppenheim III '09

William Oppenheim, who was named a Rhodes Scholar in 2010, is an exemplar among students committed to serving the common good. Oppenheim helped to found both The Omprakash Foundation, which helps link volunteer teachers with grassroots educational projects in countries around the globe, and the Global Citizens Grant, which provides students with the opportunity to pursue independently designed summer service projects outside the U.S. Having taken a year off after high school, he spent three months in a monastery in India and six months in Colorado living in a tent. While at Bowdoin, Oppenheim volunteered with Tedford Housing, which assists the homeless and spent a semester student-teaching at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham.

Oppenheim has done research on the intersections of religion, education and politics in India, Brazil and South Africa, and since leaving the College has taught and led National Outdoor Leadership (NOLS) backcountry expeditions. Read more...


Geoffrey Canada '74

Geoffrey Canada, president/CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, is a visionary educator and advocate for children and community redevelopment. In 1983 he began working in New York with the Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families, an inner-city human services agency, and became president/CEO in 1990. The Harlem Children’s Zone initiative was launched in 1997 in a sixty-block area of central Harlem to provide children and their families with the kinds of support and resources that can transform lives and communities. U.S. News and World Report named Canada one of “America’s Best Leaders” in 2005. Last year New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg chose him to be co-chair of a task force assigned to reduce poverty in the city. He is the recipient of the Heinz Award in the Human Condition, a 2005 Liberty Medal, and Bowdoin’s 1993 Common Good Award. Read more...


Sara Gagne-Holmes '91

For Sara Gagné-Holmes, the newly appointed executive director of the Maine Equal Justice Partners (MEJP), working as a lawyer is all about helping those in need. A native Mainer herself, Sara has long been aware of the issues for a state in which 72,000 people are uninsured and 30% of the population is considered low-income. Through MEJP she is able to reach out to Maine residents in need of health care, food assistance, shelter, and educational opportunities. Read more...


Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain 1852

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1828-1914), a graduate of the class of 1852, professor at the College, Civil War hero and four term governor of Maine, became the sixth president of Bowdoin College in 1871, following the resignation of Samuel Harris. He was responsible for reforming the curriculum to include instruction in engineering and the modern sciences. Visit the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Digital Archives


Lisa McElaney '77

Lisa McElaney is president and co-founder of Vida Health Communications, Inc. which produces and distributes award-winning educational and documentary programs about women's, children's and family health. She has produced and directed films on topics ranging from architecture to social justice. In 1996, McElaney received the Common Good Award, which honors alumni who have demonstrated an extraordinary, profound and sustained commitment to the common good, in the interest of society, with conspicuous disregard for personal gain in wealth or status.


Joan Benoit Samuelson '79

The 1984 Olympic gold medalist and two-time Boston Marathon winner has inspired legions of runners during her amazing career — most recently with her half-marathon win in High Point, N.C., in early May in which she beat everyone, including more than 300 men, to the finish line by more than five minutes. And she accomplished this a week shy of her 52nd birthday.

Samuelson, a member of the College's board of trustees, has become an advocate for environmental and health issues, calling herself "a human barometer" having logged 140,000 miles in her career. Read more...


Reed Hastings '83

After graduating from Bowdoin, Reed Hastings ’83 spent two years in Swaziland, Africa, teaching mathematics for the Peace Corps. Upon returning to the United States, Hastings attended Stanford University, earning a master’s in computer science. He founded his first company, Pure Software, in 1991, which merged with Atria Software in 1996, and was acquired by Rational Software in 1997. In 1998, Hastings founded Netflix, the world’s largest subscription service, which offers movies and TV episodes over the Internet and by mail.

Hastings has a long-standing passion for education and has sought ways to make education as innovative as other industries. Hastings was appointed to the California State Board of Education by Governor Gray Davies in 2000 and was its president for two terms. Hastings, a strong advocate for charter schools, helped to pass a stronger charter school law in California in 1998.

Hastings helped to found, Aspire Public Schools, Pacific Collegiate School, and, and is a supporter and advisory board member of the Beacon Education Network. He is a member and past CEO of TechNet, which promotes technology growth and innovation.


Dora Anne Mills '82 M.D., M.P.H., FAAP

Prior to taking over as Maine’s public health director, Dora traveled to Nepal and India. She met Mother Theresa, and joined a medical trip with Crossroads Africa to the Ivory Coast, where she lived in a small village studying local health issues and remedies used by African doctors. Her experiences abroad had a profound influence on her and she was able to incorporate much of her newfound knowledge into her practice in the U.S. “Traveling is such a great teacher,” she says, adding that upon leaving Calcutta she "felt a bit guilty to be leaving an area of such great need…but felt called to return to my home state of Maine."

As Director she has done her best over the past decade to address key health issues faced by the state, such as teenage smoking. She worked with Governor Angus King H’07, the Legislature, and many stakeholders to raise the tobacco tax, make all indoor public places in Maine smoke-free, and obtain the first state funding for tobacco prevention and treatment. Since then, Maine has seen one of the steepest declines in youth smoking ever. Dora was recently recognized for her outstanding work by the American Medical Association, which presented her with the President’s Award and the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service. Read more...


Everett "Brownie" Carson '69

Over the past 21 years, as the executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), Everett B. "Brownie" Carson’s (Bowdoin class of 1969) well-documented successes include the defeat of the "Big A" dam project on the Penobscot River, the creation of a dioxin monitoring program for Maine's rivers, the establishment of Maine's 1989 landmark recycling law which has reduced the state's waste stream by nearly 50 percent, the protection of Baxter State Park by defeating proposed development in the area, and the removal of the Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River.

In the early 1970s Carson, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps in the Vietnam War, worked with the Upward Bound program and served in the Poverty Programs of the Maine State Office of Economic Opportunity. He spent the next six years with Pine Tree Legal Assistance, managing a regional legal services office and providing valuable legal resources for Maine's low-income community. Late in 1983, he joined the Natural Resources Council of Maine as a lobbyist and staff attorney and six months later was named the organization's executive director.

In 2005, the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees presented Carson with the Common Good Award. Read more...


Frank N. Whittier Class of 1885

After briefly studying law, Frank Nathaniel Whittier returned to Bowdoin in 1886 as director of the gymnasium and continued his studies in the Medical School of Maine at Bowdoin College, receiving his M.D. in 1889. Whittier's service to Bowdoin continued for thirty-eight years as college physician, professor of hygiene and physical training, and as professor of pathology and bacteriology at the Medical School. During World War I he volunteered for medical duty and attained the rank of major.

Whittier was also a noted pathologist and criminologist. Two innovations that he helped develop and use for the first time in a court of law were a serology test, which distinguished human from animal blood, and a ballistics test, which matched shells with the weapons that fired them. At the time of his death he was one of the medical examiners in Cumberland County, Maine. Read more...


Jane Buchanan '96

As a graduate student at John Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies, Buchanan conducted two research trips to the Ukraine, meeting with victims of various human rights abuses, as well as conducting interviews with various non-governmental organizations and local government officials. Buchanan’s reports regarding political censorship in the media in Ukraine and the discrimination of women in employment, have been used to confront the Ukrainian government and encourage the UN, EU, and other influential parties to take action.

In 2003-2004 Buchanan worked as the Executive Director of the Chechnya Justice Initiative, a small human rights organization in Moscow that provides legal assistance to victims of violent crimes committed by Russian federal forces operating in Chechnya. Both clients and employees of the Justice Initiative were frequently harassed and even threatened by Russian security services.

Buchanan admits that there are times when the magnitude of certain issues becomes overwhelming. “The greatest challenge for me is living with the knowledge that there are still such entrenched problems and there is a limit as to how much impact one person or even one organization can have.” However, she remains hopeful that human rights interest will continue to grow, “human rights are now a fundamental concept; a household term that even twenty years ago didn’t have the same resonance that it does now.”

Buchanan is currently Human Rights Watch researcher for the Europe and Central Asia Division.


Thomas H. Andrews '75

Tom Andrews is the National Director of Win Without War—a coalition of forty-two national membership organizations that opposes the militarization of U.S. foreign policy and promotes international cooperation and enforceable international law—and president of New Economy Communications, a not-for-profit organization that provides strategic planning services to groups working on human rights issues. Past roles have included senior advisor to the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, chaired by Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and National Programs Director for Citizen Action.

In addition to his anti-war efforts, Andrews also has spearheaded gun-control initiatives, helped lead a 1986 campaign against a proposal to store nuclear waste in the Sebago Lake area of Maine, and Andrews works for the release of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League of Democracy of Burma.

Andrews was elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 1982, the Maine Senate in 1984 and the United States Congress in 1990.


Marcia Barinaga '77

Marcia Barinaga has worked as a molecular biologist, journalist, and now, as a rancher and cheesemaker. "I'm trying to use my biology degree in as many different ways as I can before I die," she jokes. Currently retired from her job as a writer for Science magazine, Marcia is busier than ever managing an 800-acre ranch in Marin County, California, that she and her husband purchased in 2001. Although the couple never planned on raising sheep, they wanted to start a business that would use the land to benefit the local economy. "We became quite passionate about being a sustainable part of the community," Marcia says. Their first barn was raised in 2007 and Marcia visited other sheep farms and attended cheesemaking classes to learn about her soon-to-be trade. "It was brand new to me. My skills have all been acquired on the job."

Marcia's first batch of raw milk sheep cheese—aged for 60 days—was ready for the market in late July. When she’s not busy making cheese and caring for her flock, Marcia designs the labels for her product. She is also crossing her East Friesian dairy ewes with Katahdin rams, known for being hardier. Marcia welcomes the many challenges that come with more than one hundred animals to look after. "I'm a big believer in lifelong learning," she says. "Every minute I’m working with the animals I’m so happy."


Esther Baker '97

Bowdoin encourages what Esther Baker ’97 calls, “the crossover,” between the arts and traditional academic subjects. Baker, who studied dance in conjunction with both French and Anthropology, found Bowdoin professors supportive of her dual interests, allowing her to utilize dance in other classes as an alternate tool for exploration and expression. A semester abroad in Senegal ultimately motivated Baker to turn her love of dance and culture into a career. Walking through a small west-African village, she fell in love with the African approach to movement and dance. “Dancing is a part of everyday life there…you’re surrounded by it.” With members of every generation participating in dance, and children being encouraged at a young age to “just move around,” it’s no surprise that Africa has become a center for the emerging hip-hop movement. “People look to Africa for what’s happening,” says Baker, which makes living in Senegal “a great situation for any dancer to be in.” After re-locating to Africa, Baker became involved with many choreography projects and was invited to perform her solo “Le President” at the Dialogue De Corps International Dance Festival in Burkina Faso. Several of her works have been filmed, including the recent “Ndox Mi/Water,” which screened at the Saratoga Springs Women’s Festival and at DanceCameraWest in Los Angeles. In “Ndox Mi,” Baker worked with the children of Grand Dakar, Senegal, using their colorful water-carrying buckets as props.


Bernard Osher '48

A native of Biddeford, Maine, Osher is an extraordinarily capable businessman whose quiet but steady philanthropy has enriched countless lives while strengthening important institutions in Maine and across the country. Osher Hall, dedicated May 11, 2007, and the Bernard and Barbro Osher Gallery in the newly renovated Museum of Art were both made possible by Osher's generosity.

The Bernard Osher Foundation, founded in 1977, seeks to improve quality of life for residents of California, Maine and elsewhere through post-secondary student scholarships and arts, cultural and educational grants. The Foundation also supports selected programs in integrative medicine as well as a national network of lifelong learning institutes. In recent years the Foundation has expanded scholarship funding to almost every state, targeting students ages 25 to 50 who have dropped out of college. Read more...


Matt Marolda '96

If you’ve ever tried to buy a ticket to Fenway Park you know how expensive and hard to find these gems are.  The Boston Red Sox have sold out 400 consecutive games with seats averaging a $50 price tag and re-selling for more than $300 during the regular season. And yet the Red Sox are one of three New England teams to join the vast client base of StratBridge, Inc., which includes over 100 organizations, including the entire NBA and NHL, along with dozens of other profession sports franchises. StratBridge, founded in 1999 by Matt Marolda ’96, helps teams sell tickets more effectively using its StratTix analysis platform that tracks ticket sales and provides the front office with live updates on how tickets are selling and at what prices. The concept behind StratTix, known as yield management, has been used by airlines for decades and allows teams to adjust ticket prices to ensure that no seats are wasted.  Read more


Suzanne Fox '87

In addition to the myriad responsibilities that fall upon any small-business owner, Suzanne Fox '87 has one unusual complication – a 13-hour time difference with her closest business partner. Remaining connected to a country halfway around the world has been Suzanne's challenge of choice since she was among the first group of Bowdoin students to study abroad in China her junior year. Her consulting company, which she founded in 2000, teaches businesses in China and the United States how to conduct international deals without hurting feelings or stepping on toes. Her advice is drawn from her own experience mixed with research and little common sense. "I got into this because I tripped over my feet one too many times while I was there," she says. "It's just so completely overwhelming for some."  Read more


Alison McConnell '04

By day, Alison McConnell '04 covers the complex world of financial markets, reporting real-time news out of the U.S. Treasury, Congress, and the White House for a Washington, D.C., wire service. The economic turmoil has made Alison's job exciting, to say the least. "It's a great time to be a financial reporter and a bad time to be an investor," she says. An economics major and Orient editor, Alison interned after graduation at, a politics and policy news service, but never planned to enter the world of financial reporting. "I had only a vague sense of combining the two," she says of writing and economics. Read more


Victor Fields '75

For all Victor Fields ’75 has accomplished in the music industry it is hard to believe that only a decade ago the talented jazz artist was a full-time businessman. But in fact, after graduating from Bowdoin with a political science degree,Victor made his way to the west coast to try his hand at insurance—and met with success. Although he was musically active during his four years at Bowdoin, hosting a Friday night jazz show on WBOR and singing in a percussion ensemble led by Geoffrey Canada ’74,Victor’s career goals steered him out of the spotlight and into the office, where he was quickly promoted to the position of regional vice president at his San Francisco company. Only after losing his mother to cancer, did Victor recognize the second void in his life: music. Read more


Leslie Blickenstaff '94

In 2002, after practicing as an employment lawyer for nearly five years, Leslie Blickenstaff ’94 took a time-out to reevaluate her life. While asking herself the typical self-revealing question, “Am I truly happy?”, she came to the realization that something was lacking. “I wanted to feel passionate about something, and I wanted to do something that made a positive difference in other people’s lives.” At the risk of losing the steady salary and security she had earned through her five years of work at the Boston-based firm of Goodwin Procter LLP, Blickenstaff took a six-month leave of absence in a small town in Chilean Patagonia called Coyhaique. What began as a temporary escape from her professional life, quickly morphed into a service project that would provide the direction and sense of purpose Blickenstaff craved. Read more


Ed Lee   '74

Ed Lee '74 likens his experience at Bowdoin to Kwai Chang Caine's time at the Shaolin monastery in the 1970s TV show, Kung Fu. "A young student goes into the monastery, and the Shaolin priests teach them all the skills they need to change the world. Then they go out and they never come back because they're too busy changing the world. That's kind of what I felt about Bowdoin. It gave me the opportunity to deeply ingrain myself with everything from history, religions, and philosophy to government, politics, to all the science that I wanted." Read more...


Leon Gorman '56

Leon Gorman is chairman of the board and former president of L.L. Bean, the mail-order, online, and retail company headquartered in Freeport, Maine, with thirty stores worldwide. Gorman, who was named president of the company in 1967 following the death of his grandfather and company founder, Leon Leonwood Bean, is credited with taking what was a $4.75 million company and building it into billion-dollar enterprise and a brand known around the world for quality and customer service. A business leader, conservationist, and philanthropist, Gorman and his wife, Lisa, are generous donors and active participants in the affairs of colleges and universities, medical facilities, museums, arts and cultural organizations, wilderness and conservation societies, and community service programs that meet the needs of the disadvantaged.


Kelly Kerney '02

In the ultra-competitive literary landscape, hundreds of debut novels are published each year to little fanfare. It's extraordinary for a new author to get one major review, let alone the string of significant acclamations tallied up for the first novel by Kelly Kerney '02. Born Again, was published by Harcourt and has received excellent reviews by The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Entertainment Weekly, and was starred by Kirkus Review. Following the often hilarious journey of a young Christian fundamentalist named Mel who comes to terms with Darwinism, Born Again has been praised by renowned authors such as Margot Livesey, William O'Rourke, and Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo.  Read more


Jennifer Black '92

When she was 17, Jennifer Black ’92 traveled to Russia for the first time and discovered in that “fascinating and alien place,” no one understood her language. So, she made a simple decision: “I thought, ’maybe I’ll just learn to talk to these people and then come back,’” she says with a laugh. And that’s exactly what she did, double majoring in Russian and government and legal studies at Bowdoin and spending a semester of her junior year abroad, a move she says helped her to “get over the initial hump” of living in a foreign place.

After graduation, Jennifer took a position at the United States Embassy in Moscow, where she processed immigrant visas for three years and used her language skills on a daily basis. In 1998, she began working for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) location in Votkinsk, a city in central Russia. As a member of the DTRA team, which works under the U.S. Department of Defense, Jennifer monitored the comings and goings of weapons and dangerous materials from Votkinsk’s missile assembly facility to ensure that all activity within the base was in compliance with Russia’s treaties with the U.S. She describes the job as “very limiting and very restrictive…like being in a mid-level security prison.” Contact with the outside world was extremely limited, and employees used escorts when traveling into the city center. Jennifer admits that the job “sounds terrible when you tell other people,” but says the atmosphere became increasingly collegial over time. “I never had a sense that it was adversarial,” she says of her interactions with the Russian employees at the factory.  Read more


John Brown Russwurm 1826

John Brown Russwurm (1799-1851), Bowdoin's first African-American graduate (Class of 1826), is thought to be the third African-American graduated from an American college. He was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, the illegitimate son of a white planter and a black slave. His father, John Russwurm, of a wealthy Virginia family, went to Jamaica after completing his education in England. He sent his son, John Brown Russwurm, to Quebec at age eight so that he might receive a good education. Soon after moving to Maine, his father married Susan Blanchard. Russwurm then came to live with his father's family, where he was accepted by his step-mother as one of her own. Russwurm stayed with the family even after his father died, continuing his education at Hebron Academy in Hebron, Maine. His step-mother and her new husband helped him to enroll at Bowdoin in 1824.  Read more