An Inspiring Life

Photos by Mike Ritter '02


Hanley Denning '92 continues to inspire others even after her death. The actions her story inspires exemplify the many manifestations of the principle of the common good at Bowdoin: those who labor, those who make the labor possible through philanthropy and support, and those who raise awareness of important issues by their creative talents.

After being exposed to the depths of poverty experienced by those living in the Guatemala City Dump, Hanley Denning '92 committed her life to helping those children break out of the cycle of poverty through education. Her efforts in this regard and her founding of Safe Passage served as inspiration for all who knew her work. In the last five years, dozens of Bowdoin students and staff have traveled to Guatemala to work with Safe Passage during Alternative Spring Breaks or other service trips, and another group of 12 will travel there in 2008.

Hanley was killed in Guatemala City in January 2007, in a car accident. As all of the recipients of Bowdoin's Common Good Award do, Hanley's example inspires us to seek ways in which we can apply our particular talents - whether they be for philanthropy, physical labor, or anything in between - to address the intractable problems of society.

One of those inspired to use his gifts was Mike Ritter '02, a talented photographer. Mike used a service trip to Guatemala to focus on telling the story of Safe Passage through the faces and details of everyday life near the garbage dumps. He has made these photos available both to Bowdoin and to Safe Passage.


Hanley instilled in me a sense of my own potential and responsibility... I have never met anyone like her, and... I will continue to think of her in every "impossible" pursuit I undertake.

—Katy Adikes '04


The last time I saw Hanley was on a late-night bus from Logan Airport. She spoke passionately about the educational strides that her children in Safe Passage were making, about the dream that someday a child from Safe Passage would be afforded the opportunity to study at Bowdoin College.

—Janice Jaffe, former faculty


Eight years after its beginning, Safe Passage, a completely donation- and volunteer-based program, has four buildings and serves over 400 students ages 2 through 16. All that is necessary is for one person to take initiative and others will unite for the cause.

—Clara Cantor '08


Safe Passage Photo Gallery


Inspired? Learn More.

Serving the Common Good is a unifying goal in the Bowdoin community, and every member will have his or her own way of participating. For those who are interested in finding out more about Hanley's organization, and how to help, we offer the following resources:

  • Learn more about Safe Passage:

  • Share your reflections about Hanley:

  • Make a gift to the Hanley G. Denning Memorial Fund, established by Katherine Roboff '03 and her mother and stepfather, Amelia and Robert Rands, through the Rands Foundation. Contact Randy Shaw, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations at 207.725.3407 or
  • Contribute to Our Daily Tread, a book of daily quotes designed to honor Hanley and raise money for Safe Passage. Send your favorite quote, or Safe Passage-related artwork, photo, or essay to:, or contact Lisa Belisle '92 at