Campus News

Barry Mills Named 14th President of Bowdoin College

Story posted January 18, 2001

Barry Mills '72 of New York has been elected the 14th president of Bowdoin College. Mills, who will begin his duties July 1, is the fifth alumnus to be named president of the College. The appointment was announced by Donald R. Kurtz, chair of the Board of Trustees which voted unanimously January 9 to name Mills to the post.

Mills, who holds a doctorate in biology as well as a law degree, is a member of the Bowdoin College Class of 1972 and is a former member of Bowdoin's Board of Trustees. He succeeds Robert H. Edwards, who will step down June 30 after serving 11 years as president.

The election of Barry Mills comes after a year-long national search conducted by a committee comprising representatives of Bowdoin's Board of Trustees, faculty, student body, administrative staff, support staff, and Alumni Council.

"The outcome of this search couldn't be better for Bowdoin," said Kurtz. "Barry Mills is a proven leader who will bring to the presidency a high level of energy, broad skills and international experience, a love and appreciation for the traditions of the College, and a deep understanding of the challenges ahead. Barry knows and appreciates the value of a quality residential liberal arts education. He also knows well the importance of achieving diversity, building college resources, and developing a strong sense of community at the College. He is an outstanding choice for Bowdoin's 14th president."

Mills is currently the deputy presiding partner at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York, one of the nation's preeminent international law firms with additional offices in Washington, D.C., Paris, London, Hong Kong, and Moscow. He joined the firm in 1979 and became a partner in 1986. During his time at the firm, Mills has traveled professionally to Australia, China, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, and Japan. Mills is the second partner at the firm to be named president of a leading American college. In 1946 Debevoise & Plimpton founding partner William Edwards Stevenson was named the eighth president of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.

Born in Providence, R.I., on September 8, 1950, Mills graduated in 1968 from Pilgrim High School in Warwick, Rhode Island. A Dean's List student at Bowdoin, Mills graduated cum laude in 1972 with a double major in biochemistry and government. He earned his Ph.D. in biology in 1976 at Syracuse University, where he taught courses as a graduate student in introductory biology, cell physiology, and animal physiology. He earned his law degree at the Columbia University School of Law in 1979, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. Mills has published papers in the field of biology and, as a lawyer, has produced numerous publications and speeches in his field. He has also been a leader in the in-house continuing legal education program at Debevoise & Plimpton.

Mills currently lives in New York City with his wife, Karen Gordon Mills, and the couple's three children, William, 14, Henry, 12, and George, 7. Karen Mills is a founder and managing director of Solera Capital, LLC, a private equity firm located in New York City. As a student at Radcliffe College, she was president of the Harvard Dramatic Club. She graduated magna cum laude from Radcliffe in 1975 with a degree in economics and earned her M.B.A. at the Harvard Business School in 1977. A member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers, Ms. Mills intends to continue her association with Solera after the Mills family relocates to Brunswick this summer.

Barry Mills was a member of the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees from 1994 through December 2000. He has served as chair of the Board's Student Affairs Committee and as a member of the Academic Affairs Committee. He was the original chair of the College's Presidential Search Committee but stepped aside when he was drafted as a candidate for the position by committee members. Under the leadership of new chair Frederick G. P. Thorne of the Class of 1957, the Search Committee met with Mills in late December and voted unanimously to recommend him to the full Board of Trustees as its sole nominee.

"I can't overstate how pleased members of the Search Committee are with the selection of Barry Mills," said Thorne. "We felt all along that Bowdoin's next president must be a solid leader strongly committed to the liberal arts and diversity and capable of building on the strengths of the College. Time and time again, as we talked privately or as a group, we saw Barry as the ideal choice. He is a highly intelligent and organized executive who truly loves Bowdoin College. The qualities we recognized after working with him these past months also shone through when we checked his references: Barry Mills is a listener, a leader - someone who delegates well and builds consensus. I have no doubt that he will turn out to be one of the great presidents of Bowdoin."

"Students are going to really like Barry Mills because he's such an easy person to talk with," said Lovey D. Roundtree, a Bowdoin senior from Queens, N.Y., who served as one of two student representatives on the Search Committee. "I think he'll help students understand his role as president because he is very open and welcoming. His communication skills are another strength Barry brings to the job, and he'll be able to help foster communication among the many groups on campus."

"I think students are going to love having Barry Mills as president," said John Thorndike - of Tacoma, Wash., the other student representative on the Search Committee. "It was his leadership and the understanding he showed of the issues facing the College that made us see that he was clearly the best person for the job. Students should get to know him as soon as possible because he's really an amazing guy."

Faculty members of the Search Committee echoed the positive sentiments of student members.

"Barry Mills is deeply committed to diversity - as exemplified by his efforts in this regard at Debevoise & Plimpton - and he believes strongly in the value to Bowdoin and society of making ours a more diverse community," said Deborah DeGraff, associate professor of economics and associate dean for academic affairs. "Barry has also displayed a keen appreciation of the aspirations and concerns of faculty and will be a strong supporter of the academic program and faculty initiatives."

"Working on this committee is one of the most positive experiences in my 30 years at Bowdoin," said Steven R. Cerf, Bowdoin's George Lincoln Skolfield Jr., Professor of German. "I think it's an outstanding decision - an enthusiastically unanimous decision from an extremely hardworking committee. Barry is a born leader who has shown a commitment to community building and diversity. I'm absolutely thrilled with the choice."

Mills is a member of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the American Bar Association, and the American College of Real Estate Lawyers. He is also a director of the Urban Homestead Assistance Board, a trustee of Phipps Houses, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Rockefeller University Council. He follows Samuel Harris (1867-71), Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1871-83), Kenneth C.M. Sills (1918-52), and Roger Howell, Jr. (1969-78) as the fifth alumnus of the College to serve as president.

"I am tremendously excited by this opportunity and humbled to join the list of exceptional people who have led Bowdoin College," said Mills. "During these past months I have had an opportunity to meet and work with extraordinary students, alumni, members of the faculty, support staff, and administrators. I have a deep passion for Bowdoin, its people, and the liberal arts, and I look forward to listening and learning in the months ahead. The challenges facing all liberal arts colleges - including Bowdoin - are significant in a rapidly changing national and international society. I inherit a strong, stable, and proud college, and I couldn't be more enthusiastic about working with the entire college community to ensure that Bowdoin will continue to prosper and remain among the world's very best liberal arts colleges. Karen and I are both native New Englanders and we can't wait to bring our family to Maine!"

Mills will succeed Robert H. Edwards, who will step down in June after 11 years as president of the College. Edwards and his wife, Blythe Bickel Edwards, will meet with Barry and Karen Mills frequently over the next six months in order to ensure a smooth transition.

"The appointment of Barry Mills is a brilliant stroke," said Edwards. "In these times a college must look outward - to the world beyond this country, to changes in the professions and science, and to the great demographic currents that are reshaping American society. Barry will bring to the College a gifted mind and intense personal and professional experiences of these forces. He is a proven teacher and developer of people - the purpose and the joy of a college president. He will be a powerful advocate of the liberal arts. I'm elated that he's coming back to Bowdoin."

Mills will be joining Bowdoin as the College nears its 200th academic year. Founded in 1794 and opened in 1802, Bowdoin College is a highly selective, coeducational liberal arts college situated in Brunswick, Maine. Bowdoin's student body of 1,550 hails from 48 states and 32 countries, and works closely with a full-time faculty of 150. The College offers 30 departmental majors, and seven interdisciplinary majors and a coordinate major. Bowdoin's endowment is approximately $470 million, with an annual operating budget of $84 million.

Among Bowdoin College's distinguished graduates are American Express C.E.O. Kenneth Chenault '73; Secretary of Defense William Cohen '62; White House Economic Advisor Designate Lawrence Lindsey '76; former Senate Majority Leader and peacemaker George J. Mitchell '54; Under Secretary of State Thomas R. Pickering '53; and Olympic Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson '79. Other graduates include Supreme Court Justice Melville Weston Fuller (Class of 1853); novelist and short-story writer Nathaniel Hawthorne (Class of 1825); researcher Alfred C. Kinsey '16; poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Class of 1825); Arctic explorers Admiral Robert E. Peary (Class of 1877) and Admiral Donald B. MacMillan (Class of 1898); President Franklin Pierce (Class of 1824); Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed (Class of 1860); and abolitionist, publisher, and statesman John Brown Russwurm (Class of 1826).

Click here for more information about the appointment of Barry Mills.

Read January 11 news coverage in Boston Globe, and Times Record.

Read January 10 news coverage in Portland Press Herald, the Times Record, and the Kennebec Journal/Central Maine Morning Sentinel.

Read the front page story in the Providence Journal.

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