I always regarded Barry over his fourteen-year tenure as a powerful balancing force.”

I cherish Barry as a man of his word. Having served on the hiring committee that unanimously put Barry’s name forward as Bowdoin’s fourteenth president, I was most struck by Barry’s forthrightness as interviewee: he said what he meant and he meant what he said. In his discussions with our committee, he maintained that, under his leadership, Bowdoin’s new directions at the beginning of the twenty-first century should entail: (1) securing greater diversity in the student body; (2) hiring a greater diversity of faculty; (3) building an increased financial college endowment to sustain financial student support; and (4) placing greater academic emphasis on faculty course offerings in the creative and the performing arts. All these four areas were dramatically affected under Barry’s dynamic leadership. Clearly, this year’s generous faculty gift of the Karen and Barry Mills Scholarship Fund testifies to our deep gratitude to him.

I always regarded Barry over his fourteen-year tenure as a powerful balancing force. He was looking simultaneously to the past, at Bowdoin’s robust academic traditions that nurtured him as a proud member of the class of 1972, and to the future, in undertaking major social and cultural change. In the traditional realm, he continued to support the academic double major with its rich array of intellectual possibilities—he himself was a double major in the natural and social sciences. Forward looking, he supported the new forms of post-fraternity student housing, the weekly shared faculty luncheons, both formal and informal, and a major increase in the amount of dance and art studio space, as witnessed in the new Edwards Center for Art and Dance.

Personally, he was a most accessible presence on campus, at all College-wide activities including important cultural and athletic events, as far-reaching as the early-morning Bowdoin breakfasts and the later-hour evening High Holiday services. (He was also known to place a 3:00 a.m. phone call to a generous alumnus residing in Europe!). I treasured his personal support. After I shared my cancer diagnosis with him thirteen years ago, we had a frank and warm-hearted luncheon discussion dealing with diagnosis, prognosis, and future plans. And, after I had a stroke ten years ago, he was one of the first friends to visit me in the hospital—on a summer weekend afternoon. His caring knows no bounds! 

The joyous personal times he celebrated, too: I was honored, as the first Bowdoin faculty member who legally entered into a same-sex marriage (in 2008), by Barry’s presence at the Maine wedding reception for me and my husband, Ben. I was also deeply gratified when Barry asked me to introduce human rights advocate Mary L. Bonauto for her honorary degree at last year’s graduation. Whether considerately presiding over a faculty meeting or engaging in personal conversation off-campus at Gelato Fiasco, Barry was ever a responsive human presence. With his razor-sharp mind and speedy and equal-handed appraisals, he was the embodiment of leadership. As a person, he exemplified the Yiddish term: “mensch”!

—Steve Cerf
Skolfield Professor of German Emeritus