Campus News

John Papacosma '58 to Receive Alumni Service Award

Story posted February 08, 2008

John Papacosma '58 has a tremendous record of service to Bowdoin. For his many efforts, he was named the recipient of the 2008 Alumni Service Award, the highest honor given by the Bowdoin Alumni Council. The award is presented annually in recognition of an individual's record of volunteer service to the College.

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John Papacosma '58

Papacosma served as an admissions aide for 13 years and class agent for twelve years, as well as chair of the Prospective Student Committee and a member of both the Reunion Advisory Committee and Alumni Council. He is a former junior varsity lacrosse coach and is a director of the Bowdoin Rowing Club. In 1993, he represented Bowdoin at the presidential inaugural at Albright College. He is currently an integral part of the 50th Reunion Planning Committee for the Class of 1958.

Reflecting on his many years of service, Papacosma says, "Bowdoin's faculty, administration, coaches and staff all come together to create a continuity.

"The College has changed substantially since I graduated, but the best attributes remain the same. Being involved over the years with many bright people interested in bettering the institution has been a great experience."

"I am thrilled that the Alumni Council is honoring John," says Eric Foushee, executive director of alumni relations and annual giving for Bowdoin. "He has done everything for the College from admissions to fundraising, coaching to reunion planning. He loves Bowdoin and supports it at every turn."

Coming to Bowdoin in 1954 from Freeport High School in New York, Papacosma was a member of Chi Psi, made the dean's list all four years, and participated in both interfraternity and varsity sports throughout his years at the College. After graduating cum laude with a degree in history, Papacosma earned a master's degree in economic history at New York University. He says the fundamental course during his time at Bowdoin was first-year English.

"I was not accustomed to critical and analytical writing," says Papacosma. "After the great shock of initially earning poor grades, the class helped me learn to deal with college-level work."

Papacosma's professors had the most profound impact on his experience. "My best Bowdoin memories include being exposed to great teaching as practiced by men of unwavering moral compass," he says.

John had not imagined during his years at Bowdoin that he would work for many years in the manufacturing industry. His interests were in history, economics, languages and sports. Those pursuits ultimately led to his 34-year career with Western Electric, the manufacturing arm of the Bell system. In 1994 he retired as manager of information systems for what was then called AT&T Microelectronics.

After his retirement, Papacosma and his wife, Ellie, moved to Harpswell, Maine, where he has since pursued his two passions — land use management and giving back to Bowdoin. After growing up on Long Island and seeing the results of intensive development, John formed a strong interest in sustainable land use, and now serves on the Harpswell Planning Board where he has volunteered for ten years.

A friend for more than 50 years, Dick Burns '58 says Papacosma exemplifies alumni service. "From day one of his first year at Bowdoin, the College has been front and center in John's thoughts and efforts," says Burns. "He is the quintessential Bowdoin person; always ready, willing, and able to do for Bowdoin whatever is to be done."

John's daughter, Kathryn '89, and son, Jason '92, both attended Bowdoin. They share their father's interests, with Kate working for the Central Park Conservancy in New York City, and Jason as the watershed planner for the County of Arlington, Virginia. John's brother, Victor, is a member of the class of 1964 and is a professor of Balkan history at Kent State University. John's niece, Katerina (Vic's daughter), is currently a senior at Bowdoin.

The Alumni Service Award will be presented Saturday, May 31, 2008, during Reunion Convocation.

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