Campus News

453 Degrees Awarded at Bowdoin's 202nd Commencement

Story posted May 26, 2007

Click below for Commencement remarks by:

During Bowdoin College's 202nd commencement ceremony, 453 bachelor of arts degrees were awarded to students from 37 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and 16 foreign countries.

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(L to r) Class President DeRay Mckesson '07 and Commencement speakers Haley Bridger '07 and Anthony DiNicola '07

Bowdoin President Barry Mills presided over the commencement ceremony. In his remarks Mills spoke of leadership saying, "With the Class of 2007, speaking about leadership in any way other than in the personal is just not appropriate.

"Now, you might think I say this about all the classes — and every class at Bowdoin does have its share of strong leaders — but I just want to underscore my belief that this is a special class of leaders who will make a profound difference in their communities and societies, as they already have at Bowdoin College."

President Mills said the College will forever be a better place because of such leadership efforts as BeMassive, a group organized to educate others about sexual violence against women; social justice initiatives involving Darfur; and a commitment to environmental sustainability.

"I am proud to announce that because of the work and education arising out of the independent studies of two students in this class, Bowdoin will sign on to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, pledging the College to carbon neutrality," said Mills.

Members of the Class of 2007 understand leadership, said Mills, for they have lived it at Bowdoin. "We have every confidence and an expectation that they will continue this leadership — this principled leadership — into the future, reflecting vividly the principles of the common good that we at Bowdoin so proudly represent.

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Former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice, the honorable Howard H. Dana Jr. '62, delivered greetings and congratulations from the state — and extended an invitation. "The State of Maine wants you back," said Dana. "You can stay, or you can return after more education, but we want you back as community leaders."

As has been tradition since its first graduation in 1806, Bowdoin's commencement addresses were delivered by graduating seniors. This year's speakers, chosen through competition, were Haley Sara Bridger of Hamilton, Mass., and Anthony Joseph DiNicola of Malden, Mass.

In her speech, titled "Searching for the Next Rung," Bridger spoke of hiking a trail called Precipice with its metal rungs, steep cliff face and sheer drop into the abyss below, and how life has mirrored that challenging journey.

She recalled feeling at loose ends this past year, not knowing where to find that next rung. "I felt as though I was clinging to the mountain side, one foot dangling, ready to shift everything the second I found the right foothold — but just never finding it."

Bridger says it was when she began to relax a little, worry less and immerse herself in the campus community that she got the call she'd dreamed about: a fellowship in Los Angeles. "I have lived my whole life in New England," she told her classmates. "Tomorrow, I leave. I have never felt closer to the abyss.

"The moment at which you are most free, and most scared, is that moment of letting go. This is that moment," Bridger told her classmates. "Before you find the next rung, savor the mountain. And savor Bowdoin. It has been good to us."

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In his address, "Playing the Ideal Role," DiNicola spoke of his cathartic transformation from pre-med student to theater and English major. Inspired by his cancer-stricken mother, DiNicola, who already had developed a fondness for the stage, instead earnestly wanted to help find a cure for cancer and pursue a career as a doctor.

DiNicola's mother suspected her son's heart may be elsewhere. "Will medicine make you happy?" she had asked during a car ride. The younger DiNicola instantly replied, "Of course."

"I took her question as an offense," said DiNicola. "How could she doubt my dedication? Yet her question lingered and left a bitter taste in my mouth. I was pursuing medicine because, somehow, I believed I was satisfying my parents and my family more than if I became an actor. It was true. Medicine, for me, did not provide the self-fulfillment that acting did."

Though he had acted since he was eight years old, DiNicola said it wasn't until he came to Bowdoin that he knew why he wanted to be an actor. "The irony is that I had to become other people in order to become myself," he says. "My college education has unlocked a level of compassion, empathy and skill in me I have never known."

DiNicola shared a lesson — of sharing itself — that he says applies to life's stage. "We cannot simply do our jobs well, but we must instead be willing to share with the world what we know, what we feel, what we think and what we care about. If we can do this, then we are fulfilling the Offer of this College, and we are doing the Common Good."

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Senior Class President DeRay Mckesson of Baltimore, Md., presented the College with a gift from the Class of 2007 &mdash furnishings for the Center for the Common Good. Mckesson also offered some humorous remarks in thanking the faculty. "You taught us to intellectually endure," said Mckesson. "You tested us on stuff we didn't feel you taught well enough. You tested us hard. You cared, and we know it and we're eternally grateful."

Bowdoin awarded five honorary doctorates at the commencement: Geoffrey Canada, president/CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone and a member of the class of 1974, Doctor of Humane Letters; Roberto Díaz, an internationally renowned violist and president and CEO of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Doctor of Music; Stanley F. Druckenmiller chairman, CEO, and founder of Duquesne Capital Management in New York, and a member of the Bowdoin class of 1975, Doctor of Humane Letters; Eminent historian and outstanding academic leader Drew Gilpin Faust, founding dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and president-elect of Harvard University, Doctor of Humane Letters; and Angus S. King Jr., Maine's 71st governor and a Distinguished Lecturer at Bowdoin since 2004, Doctor of Laws.

Student Commencement Address Prize Winners

Haley Sara Bridger, from Hamilton, Mass., is a biology major with a minor in government. Bridger is an aspiring science writer who developed a passion for the field through biology coursework, independent study in science writing and a summer internship as a science writer at The Jackson Laboratory.

Bridger was awarded Bowdoin's Academy of American Poets Prize in 2006 for her poem, "Ladybug," and this year earned a Copland-Gross Biology Prize, recognizing a graduating senior who best exemplifies the idea of a liberal education while pursuing a biology major.

She co-founded Bowdoin Women in Business, serving as its co-president; she has helped many students as a peer career advisor for the Career Planning Center; and was a writing assistant for The Writing Project. Bridger has regularly contributed articles to The Times Record and this summer will be a Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellow for National Public Radio in Los Angeles.

Anthony Joseph DiNicola, of Malden, Mass., is an English and theater major, and he is known by many for his visible roles on campus. He has performed in multiple theater department and Masque and Gown productions, and has served as co-leader of the Improvabilities group.

DiNicola's academic path exemplifies the kind of life-changing learning that can happen at Bowdoin. He says that he came here expecting to prepare for a career in medicine and instead found a different kind of passion.

During his junior year, DiNicola studied directing, designing, and acting at the Eugene O'Neill National Theater Institute in Connecticut. He received Bowdoin's Alice Merrill Mitchell award for achievement in acting, and he will go from Bowdoin to South Carolina, where he will join professor and director Davis Robinson and the company Beau Jest at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival where they will perform Davis's show Samurai 7.0.

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