Campus News

221 Student Scholars Recognized on Sarah and James Bowdoin Day

Story posted October 10, 2003

Bowdoin's Sarah and James Bowdoin Day ceremony was held Friday, October 10, to recognize the College's highest-ranking scholars.

A total of 221 students were named Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars, with eight of the Scholars earning Book Awards.

Sarah and James Bowdoin scholarships are awarded each fall on the basis of work completed the previous academic year. The award is given to the twenty percent of all eligible students with the highest grade point average.

Book Awards are presented to every Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholar who earned a GPA of 4.00. The Award bears a replica of the early College bookplate serving to distinguish the James Bowdoin Collection in the library.

The Almon Goodwin Prize, presented to members of Phi Beta Kappa chosen by vote of the Board of Trustees of the College, was bestowed upon Yelena Lukatsky '04 and David John Yankura '04.

Other Phi Beta Kappa members from the Class of '04 are Jed William Atkins, Leah Jo Bressack, Eric Nicholas Chambers, Ana Katherine B.F.D. Conboy, Elspeth Lynnelle Faiman, William Lathrop Klemm, and Jessie Tova Solomon-Greenbaum.

On Sarah and James Bowdoin Day speeches are delivered by a highly recognized practitioner in one of the liberal arts disciplines and an outstanding Bowdoin student. This year's speakers were Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, dean of the Radcliffe Insitute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, and Katherin Anne Adikes '04.

Faust delivered the talk "We Are What We Speak: Thoughts on History and Rhetoric." Focusing first on mid-19th century America, a time when the belief in liberation for all Americans was transforming the nation, Faust pointed out that the greatest leaders were masters of speech. Through the art of language, they were able to influence others, effect change, and shape the country.

Bowdoin’s own Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain – hero of the Civil War, president of Bowdoin, governor of the state – suffered from a speech impediment. “But he was able to master his weakness, and master language,” and become a great leader. As a Bowdoin professor, of course, he taught rhetoric. An important element of his power: “He recognized that his skill [with language] was intertwined with self-definition.”

The great orator Frederick Douglass, a former slave, fought passionately to end slavery by going on a lecture tour. “His eloquent call for the end of slavery put everyone in his audience in the shoes – or more accurately, into the shoelessness – of the slave.” Similarly, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an early driving force for women’s rights, used language to convince audiences of “the individuality of the human soul,” and that “woman has the birthright of self-sovereignty.” As with Chamberlain, the force of the language was tied to both the words and the lives of the speakers.

Perhaps the most powerful leader was Abraham Lincoln, said Faust, whose words had to make a case for the Civil War. His Gettysburg Address – just 272 words – defined the purpose of the war and “created a different America.”

The days of powerful leaders being masters of speech have been fading, particularly in the second half of the 20th century, said Faust. For Richard Nixon, for example, speech writing became an industry; his words were “manufactured commodities.”

More and more, leaders are losing an intimacy, a personal connection, with the words they deliver, said Faust. As a result, they are losing a connection to their audience, and their speeches will lose power with the passage of time. As we, the audience, continue to ponder what our changing world really means, “we still yearn for the language of leadership” to help us make sense of it all.

“We should recognize the central importance of rhetoric to understand and persuade ourselves,” she concluded. “We are what we speak.”

Katherin Anne Adikes, of Whitefish, Wis., gave a speech titled "A Particular Angle." Adikes, an English major, discussed how taking the time to examine situations from different angles can allow lustrous, unexpected details to reveal themselves.

When Adikes takes a break from studying to sing and dance along to an old Neil Diamond song or to stare at a picture of her grandmother, is that “useless procrastination”? Not at all, she said. Such activities are “an integral part of learning.”

Contemplating her grandmother’s photo, at first she could not see beyond the eccentric woman with the polka dot dress and “kabuki” makeup. But what was the meaning behind her “madness,” Adikes asked herself. Looking from a different angle, she saw in Grandma Mabel a woman who struggled with poverty, depression, and illness. Despite the fact that these struggles were fundamental to the woman she became, she never mentioned her difficulties to her young granddaughter. And Grandma Mabel saw herself as perfect, polka dot dress and all.

Examined from this particular angle, Grandma Mabel’s photo reveals her to be not a madwoman, but “the colorful heroine of our family,” said Adikes.

A similar revelation came to Adikes after volunteering at a camp for head trauma victims. Terrified, she watched a man named Bob, confined to a wheelchair and hooked up to a catheter, attempt a difficult ropes course. As helpers struggled to push him through the course, Adikes felt panic for Bob. Later, in a sociology class back at Bowdoin, she read a book about a woman in a wheelchair who wanted to go in the ocean. After being pushed into the breaking waves the woman in the wheelchair said, “I am not drowning, I am swimming.” Making the connection between this woman’s story and Bob’s allowed Adikes to “examine [Bob’s] experience from a different angle” and see how people can thrive in society.

“Somewhere we develop the patience to see [things] at an angle where the luster of the details become revealed.”

During the Sarah and James Bowdoin Day ceremony the Bowdoin College Concert Band led the processional and recessional, and performed an interlude. Works performed were William Latham's "Proud Heritage," Dmitri Shostakovich's "Galop," and Leo Delibes' "March and Procession of Bacchus."

Student marshals were Lukatsky and Yankura.

The recognition of James Bowdoin Scholars was begun in 1941 to honor those undergraduates who distinguish themselves by excellence in scholarship and to commemorate the Honorable James Bowdoin III (1752-1811), first patron of the College. James Bowdoin III, who asked that the College be named after his father, was an agriculturist, an art and book collector, and a diplomat who served as Thomas Jefferson's minister plenipotentiary to Spain from 1804-08. In 1997 by faculty vote the commemorative day and distinction as scholar were changed to recognize both Sarah and James Bowdoin, who were married from 1780 until his 1811 death. Like her husband, Sarah Bowdoin gave many gifts to the College, including most of the Bowdoin family portraits, which were bequeathed to the College upon her death.

« Back | Campus News | Academic Spotlight | | Subscribe to Bowdoin News by Email