Story posted August 01, 2008
Author: Alison Bennie, Editor
The day that my son graduated from high school in June was one of the hottest days of the summer. The ceremony was held in the middle of the day, and lines were long at the concession stand, with all the early arrivals getting their stockpiles of water to take back to their seats.
I was one of them, having learned the year before to come early. On my way back to my seat, I crossed paths with the father of one of my son’s classmates. His daughter would be his first to graduate and my son the last, but we had been parents together since kindergarten, and so, as we commiserated over the choked-up feelings we had watching our children ready themselves to leave, I had a sense that we were saying goodbye, too.
While our children travel through their school years and activities with a group of friends, classmates, and teammates, we travel through those same years with a cohort of parents.We have exchanged sympathetic looks over forgotten items delivered to school, cheered together at sports, and first endured and then marveled at the talent at their musical events. Some of the contact has led to friendship, some has just been shared company in various forms of uncomfortable seating and all kinds of weather. But there has been community.
And that made me think about the many forms of community that we experience in our lives, their shapes and layers.When we ask Bowdoin students what is so special about their college, chief among their answers is a feeling of belonging, and a joy in shared experience. In short, community. It is real here, forged carefully by faculty and staff who know it matters, helped along by tradition, history, and access. It lasts well after commencement day, maintained by events that bring alumni back to campus, alumni club functions and volunteer opportunities, publications and electronic communications, even Facebook groups (Bowdoin Food Appreciation Society, anyone?).
Young alumni tell me how surprised they are to find that Bowdoin graduates at even the highest professional levels are willing to talk with them about their job searches, to offer advice and even prospects. I’m never surprised. Because I know that what Bowdoin students feel they are part of is not just a group of specific people whose time at the College coincides with their own; it is a shared experience that is larger than that population and bigger than this place. The theme for The Bowdoin Campaign, the final year of which is underway, is The Place That Makes Us.The Place We Make. It is the people, and yet not just the people we know personally. It is the campus, and yet it is a place in the mind as much as a place in the world. A community that both evolves and endures, with support from all.