Story posted May 12, 2010
Bowdoin College held its 14th annual Honors Day ceremony to recognize publicly the college-wide academic and extracurricular achievements of Bowdoin students and faculty. The ceremony was held May 12, 2010, at Kanbar Auditorium, Studzinski Recital Hall.
"This is an important night at the College," said President Barry Mills in his welcoming remarks.
"We're here to recognize students who've shown excellence in the classroom. Congratulations to all of the students who've achieved so much."
Following President Mills' welcome, Assistant Professor of Government Laura Henry delivered the Honors Day address.
Henry, recipient of the 2009 Sydney B. Karofsky Prize for Junior Faculty, gave a talk titled "Nostalgia and the Common Good," in which, after congratulating the students on the talent and dedication recognized during the ceremony, she cautioned them not to remember the moment too fondly.
"I want to warn you that nostalgia can be dangerous," she said, using as her example the collapse of communism in 1991 and how, as of 2009, 58 percent of Russians said they wanted to return to the USSR and 45 percent claimed communism was better than the current system of democracy.
"To look back at history with longing but without understanding is to miss entirely its lessons," Henry says. "We all have the tendency to see the past through the hazy glow of nostalgia."
Henry was not suggesting anyone forget the past, but rather prescribed careful examination of history's complexities in order to temper nostalgia with wisdom.
Henry sought to remind seniors that upon their graduation and their suddenly acquired freedom to choose their own path, they ought not forget what brought them to this point, namely the difficulties, hard choices and moments of doubt.
"You may recall a past that seems easier than the present," says Henry. "But to assert that things were always better in the past is to abdicate personal responsibility. Nostalgia becomes a means to avoid the difficult conversations and hard decisions that are necessary to meet the challenges of the present and to build a better future.
"As you move on I hope you will remember that it is the difficulties that you've gone through that are the mark of your achievements — your achievements are impressive because they did not come easily, because it was a struggle to accomplish them. With that knowledge, you are well prepared for the possibilities of the future."
Following Henry's address, Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd presented the 2010 Karofsky Prize to Assistant Professor of German Jill Suzanne Smith. More about Smith here.
The prize, given by members of the Karofsky family, is awarded annually by the dean for academic affairs, in consultation with the Appointments, Promotion, and Tenure Committee on the basis of student evaluations of teaching, to an outstanding Bowdoin teacher who "best demonstrates the ability to impart knowledge, inspire enthusiasm, and stimulate intellectual curiosity."
The prize is given to a member of the faculty who has taught at the College for at least two years.
Departmental prizes were then presented by academic department and program chairs. Download a PDF of the Honors Day program with the names of all the winners.
A musical interlude was provided by Seoung-Yeon Kim '10, who performed "Montagues and Capulets" from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet: Ten Pieces for Piano.