Campus News

Remarks by David Thorndike '46 delivered at the Thorndike Oak DedicationJune 1, 1996

Story posted June 01, 1996

We are here to renew an old tradition--to celebrate the third Thorndike Oak. When I came to Bowdoin in January of 1943, the story of George Thorndike was told to me many times. I found an ancient bench, covered with snow, surrounding the second Thorndike Oak. When I returned from the war, there was no bench. A few years later there was no tree. I felt a twinge of regret that a tradition and legend had returned to dust.

I am related to George. His patriarchy reads: John, Paul, Paul, Andrew, Israel, George. My patriarchy reads: John, Paul, John, James, Paul, Larkin.

Loring, do you remember Herbie Brown's lecture is English 25? Speaking about Cotton Mather, Herbie Brown quipped, "New England was the original Bible belt." It took six American generations for Thorndikes to get out of the New Testament. In a Depreciating "Browning" aside, looking up at the rafters, yes, and as we age and acquire substance, the belt slips South. George and my great grandfather Larkin were both born in the 1780s, and they were third cousins. That makes Goerge and me third cousins three times removed. I am astonished to realize that my two daughters here are four times removed, and that little Talis, the grandchild, is five times removed.

When I was small, yesterday seemed like ancient history; today, now that I am reaching ancient history, 200 years seems like yesterday. Today we renew our contract with the future. As "Casey" often said, "the best days of the College are those that lie ahead." We dedicate this beautiful new gathering place to classes yet unborn.

My remembrance of these walkways is a fall evening; the leaves raked into burning rows along the cinder paths, a blue-black sky, and the wonderful pungent smoke of smoldering oak and elm leaves, wasting and swirling in the cold draft above the glowing embers.

[Introduction of Ernst C. Helmreich, Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of History and Political Science Emeritus] Ernst, because of you, we are here today; because of you, we know the story again of George Thorndike. We thank you.

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