Campus News

Thorndike Oak Dedication - Introduction

Story posted June 01, 1996

As a symbol, the oak tree has been entwined with Bowdoin since its very beginnings. College lore maintains that George Thorndike, a member of Bowdoin's first class, planted the original oak tree at Bowdoin in 1802 following the first chapel service. Thorndike was surprised to see an accorn in an area indigenous to pine trees lying in front of the College's first building, Massachusetts Hall. He planted the accorn and moved the sprouting oak to President McKeen's garden the following spring. The Thorndike Oak was looked after by succeeding presidents, surviving the house next to which it was planted as well as Thorndike, who died in 1811. It became tradition for graduating classes to meet under its leaves before commencement to bid each other farewell. Bowdoin's central quadrangle was planted with other oak trees, following the example of the Thorndike Oak, which survived into the 1970's.

This year, descendent of George Thorndike, David Thorndike '46 returned to Bowdoin to carry on the tradition of the Thorndike Oak. The new Thorndike Oak was planted in the quad one hundred ninety-three years after the original oak sprouted in rough proximity to the position of the original Thorndike Oak. To view remarks from the Thorndike Oak Dedication on June 1, 1996, click below:

Remarks by David Thorndike '46
Remarks by Ernst Helmreich, Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of History and Political Science Emeritus

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