Campus News

Bowdoin Celebrates Annual Baccalaureate

Story posted May 23, 2003

May 23, 2003

Click below to read addresses by:
George Hubbard '03
Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.
Pres. Barry Mills
Readings from Bowdoin's Past

Bowdoin College hosted its annual Baccalaureate today to mark the official closing of the academic year and celebrate the College's 198th Commencement (to be held tomorrow, Saturday, May 24). The Baccalaureate was held at Morrell Gymnasium on campus.

Addresses were delivered by Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, vice president for biological programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington, and graduating senior George Hubbard of Greenwich, Conn. (formerly of Rye, N.Y.). Bowdoin President Barry Mills '72 presided over the ceremony.

In his opening remarks President Mills said, "We are justifiably proud of Bowdoin's history of graduating class after class of people who go on to be leaders in their communities. We all know about the famous and prominent leaders who earned their college degrees here, and we often marvel at how this small college in Maine can be so successful at graduating leaders.

"Now, as we reflect here on Bowdoin's proud traditions, let me take a few moments to underscore two bedrock principles of this College: our commitment to serving the Common Good and our steadfast adherence to the ideals of liberal education." These two bedrock principals "are essentially at the heart of Bowdoin's leadership tradition."

He invoked the words of former Dartmouth president James Freedman, who expounded on the value of a liberal education: "'Liberal education impresses upon students [and upon all of us] that one of the most important words in the English language is "perhaps"'.

"I suggest that this is not the perhaps of a confused or bewildered citizen," Mills said, "but rather the perhaps of a nuanced thoughtful and responsible citizen ready to consider the merits of all sides of an issue, but also prepared to consider how the issue should be decided based on the traditions of service to the Common Good and the lessons learned as a liberally educated person.

"This, my friends, is the essence of Bowdoin College - a college dedicated to the tradition of liberal education - and to enabling an informed and able citizenry."

Hubbard gave a speech titled "Different Views, Same Goal." He said, "If the four years at Bowdoin have taught us anything, it's that what we have to say counts.... Our opinions count...because we are people who genuinely think and care."

Student apathy, he said, is a thing of the past on campus. Heated debates, organized petitions, and opinion pieces in student publications have been everywhere. "And the best part of it all was that everyone had different opinions. Some say that having so many opposing opinions on campus is a bad thing.... Many people don't like differing opinions because they cause arguments and disagreements. The people who say this are one hundred percent correct. Arguments and disagreements were caused by the campus's differing opinions, and thank God for that. There's nothing wrong with arguing; it's what makes the world go 'round."

He concluded by rallying his classmates to "mix it up with our young views and our visions of a better world; but let's not get in each other's way. Let's not create danger for our fellow man. We should celebrate our differing opinions but let us not allow these differences to cause trouble or harm for others with an opposing worldview.... Let's use these convictions to fight WITH people, and FOR people, not against them. And let's meet in the middle."

Hamburg, one of four who will receive an honorary degree at Saturday's Commencement, gave a speech titled "Working for a Safer World: Our Shared Challenge." She told the graduates, "Tomorrow you inherit the you've got to make it safe.

"During the past four years since freshman year began, you have witnessed historic and often tragic changes in the world.... But even if you did not know anyone who lost their life in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon attacks, anyone in the path of an anthrax-tainted letter, or anyone serving with U.S. forces in Iraq or Afghanistan, the prospect that your life will be insulated from world events has ended.

"Our world is getting more interdependent every day. Our health and security and prosperity depend more and more on events that may happen halfway around the world... We live in a nation whose history was launched by a declaration of independence. But our future depends on accepting - and acting on - our interdependence."

This lesson is taking a long time to sink in, Hamburg said, because many of today's most powerful decision makers are slow to understand "the new world," and are waiting for disaster to strike before they mobilize. "The fact is," she said directly to the senior class, "we need you involved now. We can't afford to wait until you're 40 or 50 or getting a little gray to feel your influence. Why? Because everyone in positions of power today in business and government grew up during a different era. A lot of us learned from an old set of ideas. Many of enduring value, but we've been trying to unlearn others ever since."

Old ideas lead to continued suspicions of countries that are actually important partners, she said; old ideas write bioterrorism off as "simply the stuff of science fiction"; old ideas result in sparse funding for global health issues despite the impact of AIDS, measles, TB, West Nile virus, and the most current emerging infection: SARS.

"Your future, and the safety of the world you will live in, will depend upon the world's ability to remodel the old ideas and embrace the new.... This is why we need you. You didn't grow up with the old thinking. You see the new realities more quickly."

As is tradition, Craig W. Bradley, dean of student affairs, presented readings from Bowdoin's past. He quoted the 1953 address "Why a Scientist" given by new Bowdoin president James Stacy Coles, who was a chemist. Coles described the joy of scientific discovery: "Think of being the first one to discover these beauties [scientific discoveries], and the one who can go back and tell the rest of mankind and his friends about them. Think of the possibilities of these discoveries."

A few weeks after Coles's speech, Watson and Crick published their findings on the structure of deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA). In 1968, Watson came to Bowdoin to talk about his discoveries. While a copy of his talk does not exist, several current members of the Bowdoin community were present to hear it, including a first-year prospective biology student. That student - Barry Mills - went on to earn a Ph.D. in biology, and is now the president of Bowdoin.

During the Baccalaureate ceremony, music was provided by violinist Erica Pisaturo ’03 performing the Adagio from Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G minor, and Director of the Bowdoin Chorus Anthony Antolini ’63 who performed Campra’s Rigaudon and Clérambault’s Caprice.

Biographies of the speakers follow:

George Hubbard of Greenwich, Conn. (formerly of Rye, N.Y.), is graduating from Bowdoin with a major in physics and a minor in theater. He is co-captain of the men's squash team, a member of Bowdoin's improv comedy troupe the Improvabilities, a DJ at Bowdoin's student-run radio station WBOR-FM, and a trip leader in the Bowdoin Outing Club. He completed his honors project in physics on "Inferring Temperature Records from Phenology Data Using Time Series Analysis." He was Bowdoin's first place DeAlva Stanwood Alexander Prize winner, earning the opportunity to deliver the Baccalaureate student speech.

Margaret A. Hamburg has made significant contributions to medicine and to public policies over the course of her career. She is currently vice president for Biological Programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington, D.C., and is an internationally recognized authority on the threats posed by bioterrorism. She earned her undergraduate degree at Harvard and received her M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School. For six years she was the Commissioner of Health for the City of New York before becoming the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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