Campus News

Coastal Studies Center Dedicated

Story posted May 15, 1998


May 13, 1998 Brunswick, Maine--On Friday, May 8, Bowdoin College students, faculty, trustees and guests gathered to dedicate the Coastal Studies Center, located on 118 acres of land on Orr's Island in Harpswell.

The center includes two academic laboratories and a renovated farmhouse surrounded by forest, wetlands and fields on more than two miles of shoreline. A marine laboratory includes a flowing seawater system of tanks and equipment for studying organisms. A solar-powered terrestrial lab allows for easy integration of field and laboratory work. The farmhouse will be used for seminars, conferences and retreats.

The property is a gift to Bowdoin from William '27 and Irma Thalheimer in 1981. A $2.1 million gift from Leon '56 and Lisa Gorman in 1995 allowed for the property to be developed into the Coastal Studies Center, work on which was completed earlier this year. Guests were allowed to explore the property and hear from student scientists providing demonstrations in the laboratories.

At the dedication ceremonies, speakers discussed the history of the center, Bowdoin's long history of outdoor study and field exploration, and the value the center provides to Bowdoin students. Philip Conkling, founder and president of the Island Institute, spoke of his first explorations of the Harpswell Sound property in 1984. He also discussed the increasing demands on and encroachment upon the nation's coastlines, citing the continued migration of Americans to the sea. "What will you do with this treasure?" Conkling asked. "This is your pleasure. This is your challenge."

William Thalheimer '55 spoke of his family's time at the property and his father's struggle to complete his Bowdoin studies and memorable lunches at Louie's, a downtown Brunswick bar, whose nickel-beer-and-dinner specials helped the elder Thalheimer afford to attend college.

"The challenge today is for the college to provide these same opportunities to the students of today and tomorrow," Thalheimer said. "I know that my mother and father would be very proud to be a part of this."

Leon Gorman and Peter Lea, director of the center, spoke of the multidisciplinary roles the center will fulfill, bringing together not only scientists, but artists, philosophers and poets to learn and explore. "We believe it is only when natural scientists, economists and public-policymakers work together that the preservation of natural sustainable resources may be maintained," Gorman said.

Lea described the center as "a model of environmental stewardship" and the realization of a dream to provide an undisturbed natural resource close to the college.

"Everything we will do out here," Lea said, "will be done with an eye toward the college and toward the future."

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