I’m sharing this slightly modified version of a well-known masterpiece to illustrate a characteristic of Barry’s leadership that I admire most. In Raphael’s School of Athens, from 1511, we see Plato and Aristotle at the center of a composition exemplifying philosophy. Plato, on the left, is gesturing upward, signifying his belief in a higher plane of ideal forms, while Aristotle’s gesture affirms the primacy of things we know through first-hand experience; the classic arguments for the ideal and the real.
Over the course of numerous committee meetings and innumerable decisions that I’ve watched Barry and his administration deal with over the past fourteen years, I’ve had ample opportunity to observe his idealism in lively debate with his pragmatism. From the smallest decision to setting the course for the future of the College, his abiding commitment to excellence is invariably matched by his delight in finding creative and practical means of achieving it.
Like all creative thinkers, Barry is skeptical of either-or propositions and instinctively assumes that the best solution for Bowdoin is the one that he and his colleagues are about to create. It’s a cast of mind that requires exceptional confidence in the face of uncertainty (versus off-the-shelf solutions) but that also enables him to connect visionary thinking with practical goals. Watching the results of his stewardship over the past fifteen years has been incredibly rewarding and, more importantly, a defining moment in what Raphael might call the School of Bowdoin.
A. LeRoy Greason Professor of Art