Campus News

Nike Gift in Honor of Joan Benoit Samuelson '79 to Benefit Bowdoin College and Freeport Athletes

Story posted December 15, 2004

A gift of $300,000 to Bowdoin College from NIKE, Inc. will fund improvements to the Bowdoin outdoor track in honor of Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson, Bowdoin Class of 1979. As part of the agreement announced December 15, 2004, Bowdoin will give the Freeport High School Track Team access to its outdoor track at Whittier Field and its indoor track at Farley Field House through 2024.

"Bowdoin is very pleased to be partnering with the Town of Freeport and Nike on this project," said Bowdoin College President Barry Mills. "We're grateful to Nike for its generous gift which will benefit Bowdoin and community students for years to come in the name of one of the College's most esteemed graduates."

Nike's gift to Bowdoin for the track enhancement project is part of the Bowerman Track Renovation Program, which is a 10-year, $2 million program dedicated to refurbishing or constructing running tracks around the world in the name of legendary University of Oregon track and field coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman. Since the program's inception in 1999, the Bowerman Track Renovation Program has helped refurbish 20 tracks across the country.

Nike originally offered to honor Benoit Samuelson two years ago with a donation toward the construction of a new track in her hometown of Freeport. Those plans fell through due to town siting and financial issues.

Freeport and Nike then investigated partnering with Bowdoin, where the outdoor track is in need of resurfacing and other repairs. Under the terms of the agreement, the Nike gift will fund the College's track upgrade in exchange for allowing the Freeport track team to hold practices and meets at Bowdoin.

Bowdoin currently opens classes to qualified high school students from Brunswick and surrounding communities, including Freeport. In addition, Freeport runners already use Bowdoin's indoor track (sharing time and space with the Brunswick track team) and will use the outdoor track this spring before repairs begin. The team will then have access to the upgraded outdoor track when their season opens in the spring of 2006. Freeport's use of the track will be scheduled for times when it is not being used by Bowdoin teams.

"This is a winning partnership for both Freeport and Bowdoin College," said Samuelson. "Freeport High School will have access to premier training facilities for the first time, which should help in the development of a highly competitive track team and increased community interest in the sport. The history and tradition of the Bowdoin track - serving as the training ground for the 1972 Olympic team, for example - should help motivate the Freeport athletes to achieve their goals. I appreciate the personal support Nike has given me over the years, and now want to thank them for their support of Freeport, Bowdoin, and the running community in Maine."

Repairs to the track are scheduled to begin in the spring. Improvements include widening the straight-away track on the starting side from six to eight lanes, repairing the steeple chase and high jump areas, relocating the long jump and pole vault areas, and resurfacing the entire track. The eight-week project is expected to be completed in July 2005.

The material for the pole vault, steeple chase, long jump and high jump equipment will incorporate Nike Grind material made from byproduct (or what was once waste) from the manufacturing of new Nike footwear outsoles as part of the company's Reuse-A-Shoe program. Reuse-A-Shoe is an integral part of NikeGO, Nike's U.S. community affairs initiative and the company's long-term commitment to getting kids more physically active and providing them the means to do it.

"The upgrade of an already wonderful facility is a positive development for Bowdoin and the use agreement is a wonderful opportunity for our Freeport athletes," said Freeport Superintendent Elaine Tomaszewski. "The cooperation among Freeport Schools, Bowdoin College, Nike, and of course Joan Benoit Samuelson, is an example of the public, private, and corporate sectors joining together to benefit students. We are very pleased with this outcome."

Joan Benoit Samuelson is one of the most decorated runners in the world, and earlier this month was inducted into the USATF National Track and Field Hall of Fame. A two-time champion at the Boston Marathon (setting world records in 1979, when she was a Bowdoin senior, and in 1983), she was presented with the Jesse Owens Award in 1984, and in 1985 earned the Sullivan Award as the top U.S. amateur athlete. She will forever be remembered for her dominating gold-medal performance in the inaugural women's marathon at the 1984 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles.

Upon her graduation from Bowdoin in 1979, the four-time All-American held numerous Bowdoin and New England indoor and outdoor records, including regional marks in the 1,500- and 3,000-meter races and the U.S. women's record for the 10,000 meters.

Samuelson has been inducted into the International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame, the Boys' and Girls' Clubs of America National Hall of Fame, the Maine Women's Hall of Fame, the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, and the International Women's Sports Foundation Hall of Fame. In 1999 Sports Illustrated placed her at #20 on the list of Top 100 Women Athletes of the Twentieth Century. She was inducted into the Bowdoin College Athletic Hall of Honor in 2002, the hall's inaugural year.

A native of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Joan Benoit Samuelson earned her Bowdoin degree in history and environmental studies. She resides in Freeport with her husband, Scott Samuelson (Bowdoin Class of 1980), and their two children. She has represented Nike as an athlete and spokesperson since graduating from Bowdoin.

NIKE, Inc. based in Beaverton, Oregon is the world's leading designer, marketer and distributor of authentic athletic footwear, apparel, equipment and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities. Wholly owned Nike subsidiaries include Cole Haan, a leading designer and marketer of luxury shoes, handbags, accessories and coats, headquartered in Yarmouth, Maine; Converse Inc., which designs, markets and distributes athletic footwear, apparel and accessories; Bauer NIKE Hockey Inc., a leading designer and distributor of hockey equipment; Hurley International LLC, which designs, markets and distributes action sports and youth lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories and Exeter Brands Group LLC, which designs and markets athletic footwear and apparel for the value retail channel.

Throughout its 30-year history, Nike has been a consistent and strong supporter of women's sports, including its support of Joan Benoit Samuelson in her quest to become the first woman Olympic marathon gold medalist in Los Angeles in 1984. Nike has championed women in its advertising, such as its award-winning "If You Let Me Play" campaign, which promoted the benefits of sports for girls and young women, and in advertising in support of Title IX.

Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program collects, slices, and grinds up old and unusable athletic shoes to make Nike Grind material, which is then used in a variety of sports surfaces, called NikeGO Places. Nike Grind material is comprised of the following: shoes from post-consumer collections, Nike shoes that have a material or workmanship flaw (defectives), and byproduct (what was once considered waste) from the manufacturing of Nike footwear outsoles. Since its inception in 1993, Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program has recycled more than 16 million pairs of shoes, and has donated more than 170 NikeGO Places - basketball and tennis courts, tracks, fields and playground surfaces - in communities around the world. For NikeGO grant information, visit For more information about Reuse-A-Shoe and Nike's other corporate responsibility programs visit

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