Campus News

243 Scholars Honored at Sarah and James Bowdoin Day Ceremony

Story posted October 26, 2007

Bowdoin's highest-ranking scholars were recognized at the College's Sarah and James Bowdoin Day exercises Friday, October 26, 2007. Sarah and James Bowdoin scholarships are awarded each fall on the basis of work completed the previous academic year.

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(L. to r.) Goodwin Prize winners and student marshals Yi Zhuang and Amy Ahearn, and student speaker Ekaphan "Bier" Kraichak

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 243 students were named Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars, with eight of the Scholars earning Book Awards.

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Download a PDF of the program

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 Amy Ahearn and Yi Zhuang.

Other Phi Beta Kappa members from the Class of '08 are Caroline Rebecca McIver Currie, Ryan Allyn Devenyi, Jonathan David Freedman, Philip Wesley Gates, Lincoln Joseph Pac, Zachary John Roberts, Naomi Leah Sturm and Megan Rocchio Waterman.

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. Mary J. Carruthers, Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Literature, New York University, and Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford, and Ekaphan "Bier" Kraichak '08.

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Mary J. Carruthers and President Barry Mills

Carruthers delivered the talk "Seeing Twenty-six Sides of a Particular Problem: The Liberal Arts in the Age of Experts," in which she invoked from The Offer of the College the words, "To carry the keys of the world's library in your pocket," as she spoke of cultures through the ages amassing great mental inventories.

"In ancient Greek mythology, Memory (Mnemosyne) was the mother of all the Muses — history, philosophy and natural science, poetry, tragedy and comedy — all had their source and foundation in Memory," Carruthers said.

"Memory and imagination together were the matrix for all creative thought and science, all knowledge and all thinking. Our modern libraries, including the great library that is the Internet today, are prosthetics, external scaffolding and support for our creative minds. But imagine having much of that within you, accessible in your own memory."

Carruthers spoke of the 12th-century scholar Hugh of St. Victor, who taught his students in Paris how to use their memories and imaginations to create great structures based on imagining detailed models of those, such as Noah's Ark, whose dimensions are described in the Bible.

"We human beings cannot think without materials with which to think; we cannot invent well without an inventory," Carruthers said. "That is the fundamental principle of a liberal arts education as traditionally conceived. As in a library today, all knowledge, all science, is related and housed in a single vast but securely inventoried structure, and with that knowledge — available to us all so long as we carry its keys in our mental pockets — we can create new knowledge, new ideas."

Read the full text of Carruthers' address here.

Kraichak, a biology major with a minor in education studies, is from Thailand. In his talk "Bowdoin as a Second Language" Kraichak spoke of the challenges he's encountered as a student for whom English is a foreign language.

"I came to Bowdoin not knowing what 'freshmen fifteen' or 'screwed up' really meant," said Kraichak. Right off the bat came an assignment to describe his 'educational utopia.' "The disaster was looming in front of me....What did 'utopia' really mean?"

Kraichak likened his struggle with the English language to the enriching challenges faced by his fellow students in learning to be part of a new community. "By allowing ourselves to be in an unfamiliar situation, to be unsettled by the whole new experience, we will be able to gain a better understanding of things — or, using a flowery and vague term, to gain 'wisdom.'

"Bowdoin is a place that allows us to feel uncertain, unsettled and, then, ready to reconstruct ourselves," said Kraichak. "Let us use our Bowdoin experience to make sure that once we get out of this bubble, we are ready to be unsettled again."

Read the full text of Kraichak's address here.

President Barry Mills congratulated the scholars and spoke of the importance of a liberal arts education. "In a world so focused on technology and business, why do we as a liberal arts college choose to create this new environment for our community in the arts?" asked Mills.

"We know the arts present our world as it is: a rich mix of variety and viewpoints. We know that those who study the arts develop analytical skills, creativity, critical thinking abilities and aesthetic judgment. Art is communication — the communication of ideas and the communication of perspective — that entertains, but also teaches, persuades and challenges us all."

Read the full text of Mills' address here.

During the Sarah and James Bowdoin Day ceremony, the Bowdoin Concert Band led the processional and recessional, and performed an interlude.

The student marshals were Goodwin Prize winners Amy Ahearn and Yi Zhuang.

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 death in 1811. 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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