Campus News

234 Scholars Honored at Sarah & James Bowdoin Day Ceremony

Story posted October 01, 2004

Bowdoin's Sarah and James Bowdoin Day ceremony was held Friday, October 1, to recognize the College's highest-ranking scholars.

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 20 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.

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Students and faculty pass by the newly opened Kanbar Hall during the procession.

A total of 234 students were named Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars, with nine of the Scholars earning Book Awards.

The Almon Goodwin Prize, presented to a member of Phi Beta Kappa chosen by vote of the Board of Trustees of the College, was awarded to Monica Guzman '05.

Other Phi Beta Kappa members from the Class of '05 are Christopher Michael Aderman, Eric Graham Bakkensen, Claire Melissa Falck, Kathryn Reed Leach ('04), Erika Lawren Nickerson, Matthew Patrick Spooner, Ella Augusta Thodal, and Eric Byrne Toan.

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. Bruce Cain '70, Robson Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies, University of California, Berkeley; and Adam R. Baber '05.

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Keynote speaker Bruce Cain and President Barry Mills before the ceremony.

Cain delivered the talk "Why is American Politics Becoming So Nasty, Mean, and Brutish?" He gave three reasons for the current move toward negativity: the new media; the professionalism of campaigns; and the failure of some educators to adequately train students in "ethical rationality."

He pointed to the controversy surrounding the recent CBS News story on President George W. Bush's Air National Guard service as an example of how the new media is pressured to make money, provide entertainment, and compete for the market share - at the expense of meticulous and careful research, and accurate reporting.

He explained that successful campaigns often depend on a politician's hiring a campaign consultant: someone with evidence that negative attacks work in advertising, that simple is better than complex, that scripting is essential, that issues are about character and vice versa, and that everything in the campaign should be test marketed "at home." An uninformed citizenship, he said, can be swayed.

Finally, Cain suggested that educators need to spend more time teaching civic responsibility - an "ethical rationality" (like working for The Common Good) rather than an "egoistic rationality." The result would be less "civic disengagement."

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Student speaker Adam Baber.

Adam Baber '05, of East Aurora, New York, gave a speech titled "Toward a More Reckless Education." Baber, a music and history major, addressed what he sees as Bowdoin students' three tendencies that make them "too careful, rather than bold, with our education...stress, a fixation on careerism, and our overarching concern for 'sensitivity'." Read Adam Baber's full speech here.

In his opening remarks President Barry Mills congratulated the scholars and pointed out, "The College has been very, very blessed with a talented faculty and the resources to provide an enormous range of learning opportunities for our students, whether in the classroom, residence hall, athletic field, studio, laboratory, or library. But we intentionally make very few choices for students, instead expecting them to choose their own paths. We're proud to say that there are few spectators on this campus, only participants. Our students are eager participants in the College's great liberal arts tradition and the students among us today are intentional and purposeful in the pursuit of academic excellence that is our core."

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 "Sine Nomine" by Ralph Vaughan Williams (arr. Alfred Reed), "Strike Up the Band" by George Gershwin, and "Music for a Ceremony" by John J. Morrissey.

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The Concert Band.

The student marshal was Monica Guzman.

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.

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