Campus News

David Becker '70 to Receive 2010 Alumni Service Award

Story posted April 15, 2010

For his 40 years of service to the College and its Museum of Art, David P. Becker, a member of the Class of 1970 as well as an art curator, scholar and collector, philanthropist, champion of social and economic justice, trustee of the College emeritus, and Pamela and Peter Voss Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, has been named the recipient of the 2010 Alumni Service Award, the highest honor given by the Bowdoin Alumni Council.

David Becker200.jpg
David Becker '70

The award is presented each year in recognition of an individual's record of volunteer service to the College.

Becker's talents, knowledge and expertise in the field of art, quiet philanthropy, wise leadership, and the works of art he has given to Bowdoin are gifts beyond price.

Becker's contributions began as an undergraduate through his work with the Museum of Art, where he developed an understanding and appreciation of the Museum's collections that are considered second to none.

"While I was an undergraduate, the Library and the Museum of Art were crucial to me, fostering a sense of discovery and urge to learn more that has grown ever since, especially in my career in the arts," says Becker.

"I clearly remember that excitement and want to create opportunities for future students to make their own discoveries. You never know when something you have given or have said will inspire someone else."

Becker made his first donation of a work of art to the Museum while still a student. In the five years after his graduation, Becker served as an assistant curator, acting curator and registrar at the Museum, and for a year as director of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum.

Subsequent positions in the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts at the Houghton Library at Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard established Becker as one of the leading authorities in the country on prints.

Becker continued to share his knowledge freely with friends and colleagues at the Museum of Art, curating exhibits, teaching classes and writing scholarly works on prints, illustrated books and Old Master drawings in the College's collections.

In 1994, during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Walker Art Building, Becker made an extraordinary gift of 320 prints, 17 drawings, five photographs and a bound volume from his personal collection. Each item was carefully selected to fill a gap or strengthen an area in the Museum's collections.

In his roles as Overseer of the College from 1986 to 1996, a Trustee from 1996 to 1998, and wise counsel for directors of the Museum of Art over the years, Becker has led by example and been generous with his praise and encouragement.

The Becker Print Gallery, given in memory of his parents, is but one example of his philanthropic spirit. Endowed funds at Bowdoin for the Museum of Art, Library, photography, music, South African Scholarship Fund, and the Lesbian and Gay Lectureship Fund have been beneficiaries of other gifts.

Becker's commitment to social issues is demonstrated through his service on the boards of the Maine Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, Maine Community Foundation, Haymarket People's Fund, and OUT — A Fund for Lesbian and Gay Liberation.

"As for politics, the 1960s, of course, was an amazing time of social protest and exploration," Becker says. "While I wasn't significantly involved politically when I was at Bowdoin, I knew I wanted to help change the causes of inequality and social injustice, and not just ease the symptoms with charity. I also learned more about the complexities of that task. And, to quote the famous artist Francisco Goya, I am still learning!"

Becker received the Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance's Great Pioneer Award in 1994 and Maine Initiative's Golden Grower Philanthropist Award in 2001.

First established in 1932 as the Alumni Achievement Award and renamed the Alumni Service Award in 1953, the award is made annually to the person whose volunteer services to Bowdoin, in the opinion of alumni, as expressed to the Alumni Council, most deserve recognition.

The Alumni Service Award will be presented Saturday, June 5, 2010, during Reunion Convocation.

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