Campus News

244 Scholars Honored at Sarah and James Bowdoin Day Ceremony

Story posted October 09, 2006

Bowdoin's highest-ranking scholars were recognized at the College's Sarah and James Bowdoin Day exercises Friday, October 6, 2006.

The ceremony also featured addresses by Nobel laureate Dr. Günter Blobel, Alicia Michelle White '07, and President Barry Mills.

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The Scholar procession, led by Alicia White, Lauren Steffel, and the Book Award winners.

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 244 students were named Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars, with nine 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 Lauren Reedy Steffel '07.

Other Phi Beta Kappa members from the Class of '07 are Kristen Rose Brownell, Christopher Robert Cashman, Beth Ann Colombo, Karen Elizabeth Fossum, Caitlin Elizabeth Jeffrey, Benjamin Estes Lake, Lisa Nicole Peterson, Ethan Buggie Van Arnam, and Vanessa Disbrow Wishart.

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 Dr. Günter Blobel, Nobel Prize winner in medicine, and Alicia Michelle White '07.

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Dr. Günter Blobel chats with faculty marshal Professor Helen L. Cafferty.

Blobel is the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Professor at The Rockefeller University and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he studies the process by which newly made proteins are transported across the membranes of cell structures called organelles. His findings shed light on many diseases, including cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer's, and AIDS. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery that "proteins have intrinsic symbols that govern their transport and localization in the cell."

Blobel enlightened the Sarah and James Bowdoin Day audience further about his research in an illustrated talk titled "Cells and Life." In addition to discussing how the cell has evolved over four billion years, he showed how different cells — in bacteria, plants, animals — as well as human blood cells, heart cells, skin cells — have similar organelles. He related all of life to "the miraculous world of cells."

Blobel is also the founder and board president of the Friends of Dresden Inc., an independent American initiative that supports the reconstruction, restoration, and preservation of Dresden, Germany's, artistic and architectural legacy. Since 1994, the major project of The Friends of Dresden is the international effort to raise funds toward the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche — the Church of Our Lady — a masterpiece of baroque architecture and engineering, venue for musical performance, and symbol of religious tolerance, that was destroyed by a massive bombing of the city during World War II. Blobel showed photographs of the Frauenkirche, and concluded "cells, life, art: They are related and stimulate each other."

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Student speaker Alicia Michelle White '07 (left) and Almon Goodwin Prize winner Lauren Steffel '07.

Alicia Michelle White, a sociology major and education minor from Brooklyn, New York, delivered the talk "Appreciating and Utilizing the Offer of the College." (Read the full speech.)

Having attended a high school that, in her view, did not prepare her for college, White recalled feeling uncertain about whether college was in her future. She credited the Upward Bound Program with giving her the preparation and tools she needed to apply to, attend, and succeed at a school like Bowdoin.

Upon arriving at Bowdoin, she read The Offer of the College, and wondered what Bowdoin was actually offering. During her Bowdoin career, she realized "what it means to have the 'keys of the world's library in your pocket.' ... Above all else, you learn how to learn. Education becomes a life process, of which you are an intricate part. ... [We] have been provided with the skills to unlock information."

She concluded, "I encourage you all to embrace the learning process, because it never stops. Consider looking beyond what appears to be presented, and analyze the information given you. Remember, you have been provided with the skills needed to obtain the information you need in any situation."

President Barry Mills congratulated the scholars and pointed out, "The College has been blessed with a talented faculty and the resources to provide an enormous range of learning opportunities for our students, whether in the classroom, residence hall, athletic field, studio, laboratory, or library. But we intentionally make relatively few choices for students, instead expecting them to choose their own paths. Our students are eager participants in this College's great liberal arts tradition and the students among us today are intentional and purposeful in the pursuit of academic excellence that is at our core." (Read the full speech.)

During the Sarah and James Bowdoin Day ceremony the Bowdoin Concert Band, under the direction of John P. Morneau, accompanied the processional and recessional, and performed an interlude. Music included Rhoads's Marche "Academe," Eduard Strauss's "Clear Track" Polka, and Morrissey's "Music for a Ceremony." Members of the Bowdoin Chorus joined the Band for "Raise Songs to Bowdoin."

The student marshal was Goodwin Prize winner Lauren Reedy Steffel.

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 to 1808. 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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