Campus News

Bowdoin College Celebrates Baccalaureate 2007

Story posted May 25, 2007

Click below for Baccalaureate remarks by:

Bowdoin College held its 2007 Baccalaureate ceremony Friday, May 25, 2007, marking the official close of the academic year and celebrating the College's 202nd Commencement (to be held Saturday, May 26).

Curlik and Canada.jpg
Addresses were delivered by graduating senior Larissa Curlik and Geoffrey Canada '74, president and CEO of Harlem Children's Zone, Inc.

Bowdoin President Barry Mills presided over the ceremony.

In his address to the Class of 2007, Mills spoke of parents' pursuits, on behalf of their sons and daughters, of the American Dream. For some that may mean financial success, for others, Mills noted, it means "a desire for their children to learn and mature in a community of scholars and amid the values that Bowdoin holds so dear.

"These families create the opportunity for their children to continue the American Dream," Mills said. "But they understand that their sons and daughters must be prepared to apply their talents and every effort to realize that dream. So for these parents in a very uncertain world, Bowdoin is a way for them to help their children on a path to success."

Mills also spoke of change, noting that a Bowdoin degree prepares students for whatever comes next, and for what comes after that. "The only certainty is that your lives will change and then change again," Mills said. "I stand before you as a college president who used to be a corporate lawyer, and before that a biologist."

Mills thanked faculty and staff for their dedication and wished the Class of 2007 "success and a life of learning and deeds well done."

Graduating senior Larissa Curlik gave a speech titled "Rising to the Challenge," in which she encouraged her classmates to be mindful of global warming and environmental stewardship and urging them to "reflect on the challenge we are presented with today and the possibilities that exist for us in the future."

Curlik spoke of the many conservation initiatives undertaken at Bowdoin in the last four years, such as the student-pioneered effort to heat college housing with biodiesel, the yellow bike program to encourage students to pedal rather than drive and the participation in a national challenge to fight global warming by petitioning Congress to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

It was from here, that Curlik segued from speaking about renewal of natural resources to the renewal of self. A realization to which she came, she says, upon her return from spring break. "And amidst the crocuses emerged an awareness that, all along, an inevitability of loss was embedded deep within the pursuit to define myself here at Bowdoin," she said.

"Life after graduation is still life," said Curlik. "And the processes of renewal begins again." The vulnerability felt in the newness and the uncertainty that accompanies the future, she said, gives way to opportunities, self discoveries and new responsibilities. "Despite the changes that are before us, let us not forget the spirit of activism or the accomplishments — not just as environmental stewards but in all aspects of our lives — that we have achieved as students here at Bowdoin.

Geoffrey Canada '74, one of five who will receive honorary degrees at Saturday's commencement, gave a rousing and, at times, seemingly extemporaneous keynote address, telling the Class of 2007, "This is a great moment for you, and it could be a great moment for this country," as he urged the students to fight the good fight. Canada talked about such problems in this country as poverty and violence, especially youth violence.

"Do you care about those who wouldn't make it without your help?" asked Canada. "Come join the team. We're losing."

Gazing into the future, Canada said, "I see an army of warriors, charging down to meet the enemy. 'Who are you?' I ask, and they say, 'Don't you remember us? We're the Class of 2007.'"

In what has become a tradition among Bowdoin's baccalaureate exercises, Dean of Student Affairs Timothy W. Foster presented Readings from Bowdoin's Past, in which he focused on one of the College's most illustrious graduates, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Quoting letters Longfellow sent home, Foster reminded students of Longfellow's excitement over his College experience and cautioned parents that, like Longfellow, their children may have plans for the future that they don't immediately endorse. "Parents and family, be gentle," said Foster. "It turned out quite well for Henry, and it will work out for your daughter and son as well."

Music for the Baccalaureate ceremony was provided by pianist Rio Watanabe '07, who performed the prélude from Debussy's Suite Bergamasque and accompanied violinist Timothy Kantor '07 for an interlude with Allegretto poco mosso from Franck's Sonata for Violin and Piano. Kantor also performed the Giga from Bach's Partita No. 2 in D minor. Pianist Marc S. Donnelly '07 accompanied Sonia Alam '07, James Light '07 and the audience in the singing of America the Beautiful and the Alma Mater.

Baccalaureate speakers:
Larissa Curlik '07 of Westfield, N.J., is graduating with a self-designed major in Environmental Design and a coordinate major in Environmental Studies. The premise for her self-designed major, as Curlik describes it, is "to look at how humans connect to the environment through the built form." In her work, Curlik studied urban planning and architecture, including taking part in a pre-architecture program in Copenhagen two summers ago, and she calls Jill Pearlman's classes on cities "essential" to her coursework. Curlik just completed an honors project in which she investigated the rise and fall of the Public Market in Portland, using it as a case study for the development of public markets as a tool for urban redevelopment.

Under a Psi Upsilon Environmental Fellowship last summer, Curlik worked with the organization, Cultivating Community, to develop a community agriculture program for low-income families. She has interned with the Community Action Fellowship in Brunswick and with the architecture firm of Elliot, Elliot, Norelius in Blue Hill. In addition to participating in the alternative spring break service trip to Peru in 2006, Curlik has undertaken service projects ranging from evaluating the ecological footprint of students for Sustainable Bowdoin to investigating the application of bio-solids in the Aquifer Protection Zone for the Town of Brunswick. On campus, she has been a student advisory committee member for Environmental Studies, a tutor in the Quantitative Skills Program, a member of the Stone Soup Co-op and the Architecture and Design Club, and a student leader in the Bowdoin Outing Club.

Curlik is a gardener and a cook, a runner, a yoga enthusiast, and a reader. After graduation, she plans to return to New Jersey to apprentice on a grass-fed dairy farm, learning to make artisanal cheeses and breads that are sold in New York City greenmarkets.

Geoffrey Canada '74, a visionary educator and advocate for children and community development, is president/CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone. He grew up in the South Bronx, graduated from Bowdoin in the class of 1974, and earned a master's degree in education from Harvard University in 1975.

In 1983 he began working with the Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families in New York, an inner-city human services agency, and became president/CEO in 1990. The Harlem Children's Zone initiative was launched in 1997 in a sixty-block area of central Harlem to provide children and their families with the kinds of support and resources that can transform lives and communities.

U.S. News and World Report named him one of "America's Best Leaders" in 2005. Last year New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg chose him to be co-chair of a task force assigned to reduce poverty in the city. He is the recipient of the Heinz Award in the Human Condition, a 2005 Liberty Medal, and Bowdoin's 1993 Common Good Award. He was elected an overseer of the College in 1995, trustee in 1996, and trustee emeritus in 2006.

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