Bowdoin Receives $3.5 Million Gift for Student Scholarships

Story posted May 12, 2005

Bowdoin College has received a bequest of more than $3.5 million from the estate of Robert Louis Millea Ahern, Bowdoin Class of 1933.

The Gift will endow the Robert L.M. and Nell G. Ahern Scholarship Fund, providing financial assistance to Bowdoin undergraduates studying English, History, or a similar liberal-arts field of study.

Richard and Shirley Ahern
Richard and Shirley Ahern, left, meet with Bowdoin President Barry Mills at the Eighth Annual Bowdoin Scholarship Luncheon.

"We couldn't be more grateful for this extraordinary gift," said Bowdoin President Barry Mills. "Robert Ahern was a lifelong, generous supporter of the College. His bequest will play an enduring part in the continued strength and success of the College by benefiting many Bowdoin students for generations to come."

Ahern always remembered back in 1931, when the family experienced financial hardship following his father's sudden death, that the College provided work-study opportunities and scholarships to both Robert and his brother Philip (Bowdoin Class of 1932), so they could complete their education.

The indebtedness that was felt toward the College for this financial assistance was the primary motivating factor for the establishment of the scholarship fund, according to a family spokesman.

A native of Boston, Robert Louis Millea Ahern attended Huntington School and Newton (Mass.) High School before coming to Bowdoin, where he majored in history and earned the American History Prize for his essay, "Woodrow Wilson and the World War." He was a member of Psi Upsilon fraternity, and graduated with honors in history in 1933.

Following his Bowdoin graduation, Ahern worked as a clerk with Leviseur and Company in Boston before spending for four years as a field representative with the Gallup Poll of Princeton, N.J.

In 1937 he took a job as a stock boy at The Boston Globe. When he injured his back lifting boxes, he was asked to draw on his polling experience to conduct media research for the paper. This launched a nearly four-decade career in research, promotion and development at The Globe. In 1975 he was named vice president of Affiliated Publications, Inc., The Globe's parent company.

Ahern served as chairman of the Natick (Mass.) Town Beautification Committee, president of the Natick Shakespeare Club, president of the eastern region of the National Newspaper Promotion Association, director of the United Community Services of Greater Boston, and trustee of the United Community Planning Corporation.

In addition, he was a veteran of World War II, serving in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945, attaining the rank of corporal. He married Nell Giles in 1947. Ahern died in 2002 in Westwood, Mass., at the age of 92.

Nell Giles Ahern, a native of Oklahoma City, Okla., was a graduate of Hendrick College. An author and journalist, she wrote for such publications as The Ladies Home Journal, Harper's Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, and Better Homes and Gardens, and was a prolific contributor of travel essays for The Ford Times.

After moving to Natick, Mass., she became a writer for The Boston Globe, and created "Susan Be Smooth," an advice column for teenagers. She was the author or editor of several books, including Susan Be Smooth, Susan Tells Stephen, Teenage Living, The Boston Globe Cookbook, and The Flavour of Concord: Menus and Traditions of an Historic Town. As a member of the ladies' committee at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, she organized and edited The Fine Arts Cookbook.

Nell Ahern died in 2003 in Westwood, Mass., at the age of 95.

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