Campus News

241 Scholars Honored at Sarah and James Bowdoin Day Ceremony

Story posted October 28, 2005

Bowdoin's highest-ranking scholars were recognized at the College's Sarah and James Bowdoin Day exercises Friday, October 28, 2005.

The ceremony also featured addresses by "Newman's Own" co-founder A.E. Hotchner, Ponnila Samuel '07, and President Barry Mills.

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Goodwin Prize winner and student marshal Sam Kolins and student speaker Ponnila Samuel.

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.

A total of 241 students were named Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars, with 11 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 Samuel Robert Kolins '06.

Other Phi Beta Kappa members from the Class of '06 are Sarah Ann Clark, David Mark Diamond, Margaret Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Laurel Pfaffinger Jones, Meaghan Ann Kennedy, Jason Jonathan Lewis, Luke Ogden Monahan, Alexander Douglas Paul, and Rebecca Lee Selden. Aimee Catherine Douglas '05 was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

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Keynote speaker A.E. Hotchner and President Barry Mills.

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 journalist, author, playwright and philanthropist A.E. Hotchner, and Ponnila Samuel '07.

Hotchner, who launched "Newman's Own" with longtime friend Paul Newman, delivered the talk "Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good," in which he described "the odyssey of a bottle of salad dressing."

What started as a batch of homemade salad dressing - whipped up in a large tub in Newman's dusty basement, and mixed with a canoe paddle - has been parlayed into a lucrative food company and philanthropic venture. "Newman's Own" raises millions of dollars that are donated toward medical research, education, and the environment, and used to create the Hole in the Wall Gang camps for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The camps (named for the outlaw camp in Newman's film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) served 10,000 children around the world last year.

Hotchner asserted the importance of working for the common good, and acknowledged the clear commitment students have for doing good works.

"But what concerns us in the philanthropic business is that once you leave this environment [and pursue your profession], you may lose sight of what the original mission [of working toward the common good] was," noted Hotchner.

"So, find an avenue where you can work and feel good about yourself," he advised.

Hotchner read from some of the unforgettable letters their charitable organization has received from Hole in the Wall Gang campers.

"This is what I live for all year long, to come up here and spread my wings," wrote one. "Thank you!"

"That's what I hope for you all," Hotchner said. "Spread your wings - and don't forget to look back to the ground to those who may not be able to fly without your help. So someone will say to you, 'This is what I live for all year long, to come up here and spread my wings. Thank you!'"

Ponnila Samuel '07, a biochemistry major with a minor in English from Biddeford, Maine, delivered the talk "Claiming an Education." Samuel explained how an assignment for a Gender and Women's Studies class "enabled me to place my educational experiences into context and analyze how they shaped the person I am today."

Samuel interviewed her grandmother about what it was like to grow up in South Asia, and what her educational experiences were like. "Juxtaposing [my experiences] with my grandmother's formal and informal education experiences in South Asia, I have become cognizant of the way in which different aspects of education work off of each other to create an information base for the learner, which can collectively be applied to any field in the work world.

"More importantly, however, this assignment forced me to listen to my grandmother's stories, to understand the hardships she faced as a young woman in South Asia, and to eventually realize how many contexts into which the term 'education' can be placed.... My grandmother claimed an education for herself, in spite of the confining standards of South Asian society."

President Barry Mills congratulated the scholars and pointed out, "Beyond promoting scholarship and rewarding academic achievement, we must remember that Bowdoin exists also to open young minds to a world that grows more complicated and confusing each year, and at a far more rapid pace than what many of us have known....

"[The] defining characteristic of our best students is that through their Bowdoin education they become 'fearless' learners - learners who are unafraid of new ideas and new concepts; learners who are unafraid of questioning 'conventional wisdom'; learners who are fearless in the face of complex technology; learners who are fearless when they listen to a symphony, or enter the Bowdoin Museum of Art.... And so today we celebrate a group of students who are 'fearless' learners. Students who possess all the skills, knowledge and character to invent, create, and participate in improving our society for the benefit of us all."

During the Sarah and James Bowdoin Day ceremony the Bowdoin Brass Quintet led the processional and recessional, and performed an interlude. The Quintet - Alex Colbath Bender '06, trumpet, Daniel Howard Cooperman '09, trumpet, Nicholas Anthony Kasprak '08, French horn, Scott Vaillancourt '92, trombone, and Dennis Julian Lim '07, tuba - performed Jean Mouret's "Rondeau," J.S. Bach's "Contrapunctus I," and Wilke Renwick's "Dance."

The student marshal was Goodwin Prize winner Samuel Kolins.

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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