Bowdoin has had many important and nationally known presidents. William DeWitt Hyde gave us our credo and revolutionized the curriculum. The legendary Casey Sills set high standards for the Common Good, even running for the US Senate while still dean of the college, and Joshua Chamberlain won the battle of Little Round Top but met his match with the Bowdoin students when they refused to accept compulsory military training at the College.

Man and boy, I have been fortunate to have known the last seven presidents of Bowdoin. All brought diverse talents and did much to improve Bowdoin. Some promoted coeducation, some modernized the arts and curriculum, some built important and necessary buildings, some raised the endowment and kept us solvent during troubled times, some brought additional professionalism to the faculty, some expanded our applicant pool and took our student body “East of Suez” in helpful ways. 

“Man and boy, I have been fortunate to have known the last seven presidents of Bowdoin. Even in this august company, Barry Mills seems unique.”

But even in this august company, Barry Mills seems unique. He did all of this and more.

Bowdoin has never looked better. The campus, always attractive, is now a jewel among colleges with unparalleled integration and visual harmony and a stunning degree of user friendliness. The endowment is at record levels. The new and renovated facilities are the envy of all. Bowdoin’s student body is the most diverse and talented in our history while the faculty is more professionally oriented and committed to being both excellent teachers and nationally renowned scholars than ever before. And the course selection is the broadest and most interesting in our history. I and, I think, any alum would enjoy matriculating again just to sample our exciting offerings. More students participate in more sports and have achieved more excellence in athletics than ever before.

These are not accidents but the result of fourteen years of inspired leadership.

Barry’s balanced and judicious decision-making has been remarkable. During his tenure, he knew when to listen to the faculty and when not to, when to listen to students and when not to, when to respond to the demands of the community, and when not to, when to spend scarce resources and when not to. In addition, no Bowdoin president I have known was ever so at home and so comfortable with all the constituencies of the College and beyond, a leader in the state and within NESCAC.

In this, he has been truly unique.

And Barry brought us Karen Mills as well. She has inspired so many and contributed so much to the College, the wider community, and the nation, as well as to the state of Maine. Although it is not widely known, Karen led the campaign to pass Maine’s largest ever research and development bond, $50 million devoted to small business and new product development. Without her efforts, Maine would never have passed this important forward-looking stimulus. My only regret is that she did not run for governor but then, of course, President Obama made her a better offer.

Casey Sills was fond of saying, “The best years of the College are those which lie ahead.”  Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Barry and Karen, that is even truer today than ever before. The entire Bowdoin extended community has much to be proud of as we move forward under new and inspired leadership.

—Chris Potholm ’62
DeAlva Stanwood Alexander Professor of Government