Campus News

Bowdoin College Celebrates 192nd

Story posted May 15, 1997


BRUNSWICK, Maine -- Bowdoin College, Maine's oldest college, conferred 392 bachelor of arts degrees, on Saturday (May 24) at its 192nd Commencement exercises on the terrace of the Walker Art Building on the campus in Brunswick, Maine.

Bowdoin President Robert H. Edwards welcomed an estimated 4,000 spectators and participants, and congratulated graduates on their accomplishments, while Maine Commissioner of Education J. Duke Albanese, of the Bowdoin Class of 1971, delivered greetings from the state to the senior class and their families.

In his remarks, Edwards reminded the graduating class that much will be expected of them as they take their places in society.

"You -- our Class of 1997 -- having secured great individual triumphs, graduate first of all as citizens with obligations to America, but also, today, to the world," said Edwards. "That status of citizenship unites all graduates of any academic major or any formal degree of academic achievement. For all of America's aggregate national success in rates of economic growth and gross national product, we sorely need citizens."

Albanese delivered the traditional greeting from the State of Maine to members of the graduating class on behalf of Maine Governor Angus S. King. Speaking of the historic ties between Maine and Bowdoin College, Albanese urged members of the senior class to consider staying in Maine as they begin their careers. He also offered a bit of advice to the graduates, urging them to strive for excellence rather than perfection and to "spend less time worrying about who's right, and more time deciding what's right."

"Be leaders," urged Albanese. "Maine and America salute you and we await your service."

Honorary degrees were awarded to Rosalyne S. Bernstein, of Portland, Maine, an attorney and civic leader, the first woman to serve on the Bowdoin College Board of Overseers, and the first woman to serve as a Bowdoin trustee; Paul P. Brountas '54, of Weston, Mass., a senior partner in the Boston law firm of Hale and Dorr and one of the nation's leading high technology lawyers; James M. McPherson, of Princeton, N.J., a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author, and George Henry Davis '86 Professor of American History at Princeton University; and Abelardo Morell, Jr. '71 of Brookline, Mass.; an internationally recognized photographer and professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art.

Each of the honorary degree recipients delivered brief remarks during the ceremonies.

In keeping with a Bowdoin tradition dating back to 1806, graduating seniors delivered the commencement speeches. Past student speakers have included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1825), House Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed (1860), U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harold H. Burton (1909), and researcher Alfred C. Kinsey (1916). This year, Calif Xuan Tran, of Houston, Texas., who spent his junior year studying abroad in Vietnam, delivered a speech titled A Small College in Maine in which he noted the value and responsibility of a liberal arts education.

"The beauty of such an education is that it embodies a deep respect for the arts and culture, for honesty and integrity, for free, independent thought," said Tran. "With this education comes a great moral responsibility. We are in an ideal position to assume the reigns of change that lies ahead of us. We must lead this change down a path that will not only ensure the protection of mutual respect and honesty, but also preserve the same individual freedoms and privileges for the next generation as were given to us by our parents' generation."

The second student speaker, Julie T. Johnson, of Kansas City, Mo., delivered a speech titled Only Strong Individuals Can Build a Strong Community in which she urged her classmates to remember that change is always possible, but only for those who fight for it.

"When we take responsibility for our environment and ourselves, we can control our own lives," said Johnson. "When we question authority in the name of our principles and are ready to stand up for one another, we will build a strong community -- because only when we are strong individually can we be strong together."

Hannah Whitmore Core of Anchorage, Alaska, a member of the senior class who was killed in a diving accident in July 1995, was remembered by President Edwards and by her classmates at the commencement ceremonies.

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