Campus News

Remarks by Dr. James Eells '47, Doctor of Laws, delivered at Bowdoin's ommencement, May 25, 1996

Story posted May 25, 1996

President Edwards wasn't sure whether I was to speak today, having spoken yesterday at the Baccalaureate ceremony, but this is the time for "thank you," and I am going to say, "thank you" with a little souvenir, just a simple straightforward story of the State of Maine.

I found here at Bowdoin, of course, as you have, rather fine scholars and super personalities in the faculty. Then I went to Harvard and then to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. That's the frontier and the pinnacle of mathematical studies. There was Einstein and Hermann Weyl, and that's only the beginning. Well, you can well imagine as I became a professional mathematician I was rather concerned that my starry eyes of undergraduate at Bowdoin was somewhat illusory. After all, I had just been expelled from school, and Ed Hammond had accepted me here at Bowdoin. I didn't know that much and I really wondered, what are the absolute standards? Well, as it happened, a few years later, at Stanford, one of the professors of mathematics, Professor Cecil Holmes (those of us with grey hair can remember him), was giving summer courses. We had dinner together, and my wife would tell you, I was just that little bit concerned. Cecil Holmes was an absolute giant here at Bowdoin, and what came clear within a few minutes at that dinner was that he stood very, very tall by any standards in the world.

Well, that's a little simple story about Cecil Holmes, and it could have been told about Casey Sills and Paul Nixon and Herbert Brown, and [Stanley P.] "Beeps" Chase and so many. What have I just told you? I've just told you that putting me in the presence of such people, Bowdoin has prepared me well.

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