Campus News

Bowdoin College Celebrates 2006 Baccalaureate

Story posted May 26, 2006

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Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum and Ely Delman '06.

Bowdoin College held its 2006 Baccalaureate ceremony today to mark the official close of the academic year and celebrate the College's 201st Commencement (to be held tomorrow, Saturday, May 27).

Addresses were delivered by graduating senior Ely Delman, and Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College and race relations expert.

Bowdoin President Barry Mills presided over the ceremony.

In his address to the Class of 2006, Mills noted Bowdoin's history of graduating class after class of students who go on to be principled leaders in their communities. "I believe the secret lies in the successful combination of liberal education with our guiding principle of service to the common good."

Mills stated that the environment and responsible management of natural resources has been among the more important ways students, faculty and staff have focused on the common good in the past year.

"We believe Bowdoin is obligated to limit its own adverse impact on the environment and to participate actively in efforts to employ new techniques and technologies aimed at the efficient and responsible use of natural resources," he said. "Today, I'm proud to say, Bowdoin is emerging as a national leader in such efforts."

The most recent step the College is taking to reduce its environmental impact is purchasing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, including Maine's only certified low-impact hydropower facility.

"All of this important work is ongoing and is significantly supported and influenced by our students who, after all, will inherit a planet made better by the conservation and sustainability efforts we put in place today," Mills said. "We have formidable challenges ahead, but we have learned that these problems aren't insurmountable."

Graduating senior Ely Delman gave a speech titled "On the Advantages and Disadvantages of Goals," a constructive critique on the way we view goals and accomplishments.

College students frequently set ambitious goals for themselves, he noted, and view success in terms of "checking off" their accomplishments in classes, sports, jobs, social lives, and extracurricular activities. "None of us wants our college life to be a zero-sum game," he conceded.

Having such ambitious goals, however, can have a negative effect. Delman described how during senior year he became so caught up in his own goals (including GREs and graduate school applications) that the strain wore him down. A visit from his father, who traveled to Brunswick from the Dominican Republic, helped "relieve the unnecessary pressure I put on myself regarding the goals I felt I had to accomplish."

Delman realized that a goal should be more than a final objective; it should be an "unending" process of learning and growth. "The goals you set for yourself should be goals that feel right and that make sense;...the goals you accomplish, indeed, could be ends in themselves, but are also the tools that will be used for the rest of your days."

Delman advised his classmates: "Let us strive for our dreams and aspirations. When we look back on what we have accomplished, let us not just see goals and the checkmarks next to them; let us see the progression of our respective lives."

Beverly Daniel Tatum, one of five who will receive honorary degrees at Saturday's commencement, gave the keynote address, titled "The Call to Lead."

Tatum observed that graduating college students are frequently asked, "What's your plan?", and noted that some students struggle with the realization that a longtime "parental plan" is not for them. Even one's own plans may turn out to be vastly different from what one actually wants to do.

One must ask, "Is the life I'm living the life that wants to live in me?", Tatum said, quoting Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer.

Tatum described a scenario in which a phone is ringing and ringing, and no one answers it. Someone must respond to the ringing phone that no one else is answering, she said. So, too, must each person respond to their true calling, regardless of their original plan. Plans that don't work should be abandoned. "Answer the call."

Though her own plan was to be a child therapist, she said, Tatum heard the call to teach about racism. She discovered that this path was "a social responsibility I should accept, regardless of my plan.... It has been a source of great joy."

She encouraged the Class of 2006 to "answer the call" as well. "You will emerge as a leader in your community [by offering your gifts and talents].... Leadership is everyone's vocation....

"How do you know when 'the phone call' is really for me?" she asked. Among the telltale signs is the realization that "this is something that I can't NOT do....

"There is a great power in what you do with passion and integrity," she concluded. "When you hear the phone ringing, answer it. Find 'where your deep gladness matches the world's deep need.'"

Music for the Baccalaureate ceremony was provided by pianist Marc S. Donnelly '07, who performed Pierre Attaingnant's Keyboard Prelude of 1531 and George Gershwin's Prelude III from 1926, and by guitarist Eric Davich '06, who performed Freddie Hubbard's "Up Jumped Spring."

Baccalaureate speakers:
Ely Delman '06 was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and lived there until age 10. He then lived in Costa Rica for five years, followed by the Dominican Republic for three, where his family still lives. At Bowdoin, he majored in Government and Legal Studies, with a concentration in Political Theory, and minored in Spanish. He was the 2006 recipient of the DeAlva Stanwood Alexander First Prize, entitling him to give the student address at baccalaureate. Delman completed two independent studies in jazz: one on John Coltrane, the other on Miles Davis. The John Coltrane study resulted in a paper titled "John Coltrane and Walt Whitman: The Search for the Self," and the Miles Davis study resulted in a presentation held at Gibson Music Hall. He has been a member of Residential Life staff for two years, this year serving as Head RA at Brunswick Apartments. He played on the men's club volleyball team for four years, and was co-captain this year. He was also a DJ at WBOR for three years.

Beverly Daniel Tatum is a scholar, teacher, author, nationally recognized race relations expert, and the ninth president of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. A psychologist by training, Tatum earned a B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1975, M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan, and an M.A. in religious studies from Hartford Seminary. She began her teaching career at the University of California at Santa Barbara and at Westfield State College in Massachusetts. She spent 13 years at Mt. Holyoke College, where she was professor, dean of the college and vice president for student affairs, and acting president. She was named president of Spelman College in 2002. Tatum's research has examined racial identity development in teens, the impact of race on classroom dynamics, and the experiences of African-American families in predominantly white communities. Her books include Assimilation Blues: Black Families in a White Community, published in 1987; and her critically acclaimed 1997 book, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" and Other Conversations About Race, in which she applies her expertise on race to argue that straight talk about racial identity is essential to the nation.

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