Campus News

253 Scholars Honored at 2009 Sarah and James Bowdoin Day Ceremony

Story posted October 30, 2009

Bowdoin's highest-ranking scholars were recognized at the College's Sarah and James Bowdoin Day exercises Friday, October 30, 2009. Sarah and James Bowdoin scholarships are awarded each fall on the basis of work completed the previous academic year.

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Goodwin Prize winner and student marshal Raya Zahava Gabry '10, and student speaker Yongfang Chen '10.

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 253 students were named Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars, with 11 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 Raya Zahava Gabry.

Other Phi Beta Kappa members from the Class of 2010 are:

Chaiyaboot Ariyachet
Maxime Jasmine Billick
Tanya Farber
Allison Faye Gunther
William Wright Hameline
Emily Louise Norton
Rachael Marie Norton
Alexandra Lane Reed
Hannah Kay Scheidt
Rebecca Rose Schouvieller

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 Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences at Columbia University, and Yongfang Chen '10.

2009 Sarah and James Bowdoin Day Address: Kenneth T. Jackson

In his talk, "Heroes and History," Jackson juxtaposed the heroics of Col. Joshua Chamberlain; of the firefighters called to duty during the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center; and of Oseola McCarty, a washerwoman in Hattiesburg, Miss., who became the University of Southern Mississippi's most famous benefactor, when in 1995 she established a trust through which her life's savings would be left to the university to provide scholarships for students needing financial assistance.

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President Barry Mills and Kenneth T. Jackson

"Lead a life of quality and meaning," Jackson urged those in attendance.

"There is within us all the potential to be a hero. A hero is someone who has to overcome a great obstacle, who has to face the darkness and find the courage and willpower to do it."

2009 Sarah and James Bowdoin Day Student Address: Yongfang Chen '10

In his talk, "Bowdoin as a Lifelong Gift," Chen spoke of his academic journey from his native China in pursuit of the kind of experience of which he writes in his recent book, A True Liberal Arts Education.

Chen spoke of finding what in China may be considered "the answer."

Coming from a culture in which a "standard answer" is provided for every question, I did not argue with others even when I disagreed. However, Bowdoin forced me to re-consider "the answer" and reach beyond my comfort zone. In my first-year-seminar, East Asian Politics, I was required to debate with others and develop a habit of class engagement. This sometimes meant raising counter-arguments or even disagreeing with what had been put forward. For instance, one day we debated what roles Confucianism played in the development of Chinese democracy. Of the 16 students in the classroom, 15 agreed that Confucianism impeded China's development; but I disagreed. I challenged my classmates. At Bowdoin, on many occasions, you will find that there are no "standard answers." More ironically, the "standard answer" is often the wrong answer. Bowdoin made me consistently question the "prescribed answer."

Chen also describes the ways in which Bowdoin has helped him gain confidence, refine his critical thinking skills and cultivate leadership qualities.

To me, leadership is neither simply to lead nor taking control. Certainly, leadership is not something that's always revealed in a professional setting. Bowdoin makes me think of leadership much more broadly. In my opinion, leadership is the ability to perceive a demand, set the goal and strive for it. Indeed, leadership is about contribution and making a lasting impact. In four years, Bowdoin refined my leadership by improving my reasoning skills, helping me move forward and permitting me to think about the impossible. I firmly believe that all of us receive gifts from Bowdoin in different forms.

Read the text of Chen's address in its entirety.

President Barry Mills congratulated the scholars on their academic achievements and encouraged all to be fearless learners, whether that be questioning conventional wisdom or visiting the Museum of Art.

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

The student marshal was Goodwin Prize winner Raya Zahava Gabry.

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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