Campus News

Bowdoin to Award 408 Degrees at 200th Commencement May 28

Story posted May 12, 2005

Bowdoin College will hold its 200th Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 28, 2005, and confer bachelor of arts degrees on 408* graduates.

Commencement weekend events will also include speeches by noted Chinese author and linguist Jung Chang and three graduating seniors.

Bowdoin President Barry Mills will preside over commencement and award degrees on the terrace of Walker Art Building on the campus quad. In the event of very severe weather, commencement will be held in Farley Field House. (Bowdoin has not held an indoor commencement since 1986.)

Of the 408 graduates, 67 are from Maine. Other states with the most graduates are Massachusetts with 99; New York with 31; Connecticut with 22; California with 16; New Jersey with 16; New Hampshire with 15; Illinois with 11; and Minnesota with 10.

Sixteen graduates are international students, representing 14 different countries.

Since 1806, Bowdoin has given the honor of speaking at commencement to graduating seniors. Until 1877 every graduate had a speaking part. The custom of selecting student commencement speakers through competition began in the 1880s.

Truc T. Huynh of Portland, Maine, and Caitlin S. Woo of Andover, Mass., are this year's speakers.

Senior Class President Peter Hastings will also address his classmates and present the College with the Class of 2005 gift.

Other participants include Maine Speaker of the House John Richardson, who will deliver greetings from the state, and Rabbi Simeon Maslin, who will deliver the invocation.

Bowdoin will award honorary doctorates to Ellen Baxter '75, executive director of Broadway Housing; Jung Chang, author and linguist; Donald R. Kurtz '52, Bowdoin trustee emeritus; Alan Lightman, author, physicist and educator; Frederick G.P. Thorne '57, Bowdoin trustee emeritus; and Frederick Wiseman, documentary filmmaker.

While the honorary degree recipients will not give speeches at the commencement ceremony, they will participate in a variety of events with members of the campus community during the weekend.

On Friday, May 27, Lightman will discuss "The Physicist as Novelist" at 2 p.m. in the Bowdoin Chapel. Wiseman will present "The Making of a Documentary Film" at 3:15 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center.

The College's baccalaureate ceremony, marking the official end of the academic year, will be held at 4:30 p.m., Friday, May 27, in Morrell Gymnasium. Jung Chang will deliver the keynote address.

Graduating senior Haliday Douglas of St. Louis, Mo., will also speak at baccalaureate.

Bowdoin College was chartered in 1794, and held its first commencement ceremony in 1806 in the second meetinghouse of First Parish Church across the street from the College. There were seven graduates in the Class of 1806. The following year saw the smallest graduating class in the College's history, with just three members in the Class of 1807.

The best-known class was the Class of 1825, which included writers Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In 1875, on the day before commencement at the 50th reunion of the class, Longfellow recited his poem "Morituri Salutamus," an elegiac reflection on youth and age.

Other notable Bowdoin graduates include President Franklin Pierce 1824, African-American newspaper editor John Brown Russwurm 1826, Civil War hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain 1852, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell '54, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen '62, and Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson '79.

Russwurm was the first black graduate of Bowdoin; the first woman graduate was Susan D. Jacobson, Class of 1971.

*Note: The total number of bachelor of arts degrees conferred may change in the weeks leading up to the Commencement ceremony.

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