“[O]ur college can and rightfully does claim a long and enduring association with the value of service to the common good. While others may have moved from one philosophy of education to another in search of an identity, Bowdoin has remained steadfast in its adherence to this fundamental principle.” With these words in his 2014 Reunion Convocation address, Barry Mills reaffirmed a major theme of his term in office. His presidency has been marked by two especially powerful manifestations of that principle—a driving commitment to expand access to Bowdoin by deepening financial aid resources and the creation of the McKeen Center for the Common Good, a living, evolving organization to support students (and faculty and staff) in finding ways “to exert [their] talents for the public good.”
“As Barry Mills concludes his presidency, Bowdoin’s 213-year commitment to the Common Good is more prominent and deeply imbedded in the institution than ever before.”
Under Barry’s leadership, financial aid became a primary goal of The Bowdoin Campaign (2004-2009) and of fund-raising generally. As a result, the percentage of the College endowment restricted to student aid grew from 35 percent in 2001, when he began as president, to 45 percent in 2014. And the combination of fund-raising with wise investment strategies expanded endowment support for financial aid by 261 percent during that time—from $151 million in 2001 to $546 million in 2014. More Bowdoin students today receive financial assistance than at any time in the College’s history. Hundreds of students’ lives have been changed dramatically by the opportunities these expanded resources have provided, and the College community is richer and more diverse.
The Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good marks another legacy of Barry Mills’s presidency. The Center opened in 2008 in a prominent location in the center of campus. Today, it builds on the earlier work of the Community Services Resource Center and serves as a vibrant hub for student initiative and leadership. Under the inspiring and steady guidance first of Susie Dorn and now of Sarah Seames, the Center and the community engagement it supports touch the lives of most Bowdoin students. Thirty-five student-led volunteer groups involve nearly 500 students, and over 300 students enroll in community-engaged courses annually. Over 100 first-year students begin their Bowdoin careers on a dozen or more Community Immersion Orientation Trips. Each summer, twenty-four students work with non-profits or public agencies through McKeen Center fellowships. During the academic year, thirteen McKeen Fellows strengthen their leadership skills and help prepare several dozen other students to organize and guide the volunteer groups on seven alternative spring breaks and two alternative winter breaks. McKeen Center staff both assist faculty members in connecting their courses to local or global organizations and connect students completing summer fellowships with faculty for independent studies that imbed their experiences in the academy. Among the 1,150 or so students whom the McKeen Center touches each year, scores find their lives reshaped in exciting ways through their engagement and learning with communities around the world.
In 2015, as Barry Mills concludes his presidency, Bowdoin’s 213-year commitment to the Common Good is more prominent and deeply imbedded in the institution than ever before.
Former Dean of Academic Affairs and Daniel B. Fayerweather
Professor of Political Economy and Sociology Emeritus