“Barry’s vision was to change students’ lives so that they might, in turn, change the world.”

Nelson Mandela said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” In Maine, we are proud that Bowdoin College’s role in arming young people with the knowledge, character, and sense of duty to fully engage in the life of their communities—from local to global—predates the State of Maine itself. This legacy is an extraordinary measure of the depths of Bowdoin’s roots in the landscape of Maine and the nation.

With just fourteen individuals having served as president of the college, the longevity of Bowdoin’s leaders has afforded significant opportunities to leave an indelible imprint. As I have been privileged to know President Barry Mills and his remarkable wife, Karen, I have witnessed firsthand his dedication to further solidifying the college’s historical bond with Maine, the Town of Brunswick, and our country—and transforming Bowdoin for the future in a challenging, ever-changing, and highly competitive educational environment.

Barry’s vision was to change students’ lives so that they might, in turn, change the world.

In my many conversations with Barry over the years, it was evident his passion for expanding access to the power of higher education was the driving force of his presidency—reflecting how it is the great equalizer that can give every individual, regardless of race, income, or geographic background, the opportunity to flourish. His commitment was manifest in his bold resolve to eliminate loans for all Bowdoin students, forever changing the character and trajectory of the College. And his relentlessness in sustaining this commitment was personified by his tireless efforts that swelled Bowdoin’s endowment from $475 million in 2001 to more than $1.2 billion. 

Education is also an enabler of dreams and, with a dedication to enlarging its reach and a culture of inclusiveness, President Mills has opened a wider doorway to the Bowdoin experience. Students of color have nearly tripled from about 11 percent to 31 percent, while students from outside New England increased from 44 percent to 66 percent. Moreover, exposing all Bowdoin students to broader educational and social experiences will help them better define what the common good actually is, and what it demands of us in this incredibly diverse and interconnected world. 

Perhaps most revealingly, as I’ve travelled throughout the country since departing the Senate, whenever I meet someone connected to Bowdoin and raise the name of Barry Mills the reaction is invariably effusive. It is a response that speaks compellingly to his innovative brand of leadership in service to a generation of Bowdoin students, and to the advancements he has secured for all those who will follow. Indeed, these are gifts that are both priceless and enduring.  

—Former US Senator Olympia J. Snowe