Campus News

455 Degrees Awarded at Bowdoin's 205th Commencement

Story posted May 29, 2010

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During Bowdoin College's 205th commencement ceremony, 455 bachelor of arts degrees were awarded to students from 40 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and 16 foreign countries.

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(L. to r.) Class President Matthew Yantakosol '10 and Commencement speakers Jessica Song '10 and Luke Mondello '10.

Bowdoin President Barry Mills presided over the commencement ceremony. Citing his tradition of speaking about leadership at commencement, Mills reminded students of two important components — a sense of humility and a sense of humor.

"A shining characteristic of the Bowdoin leader is we 'leave our ego at the door,'" says Mills.

"And so, on this very self-important and celebratory day — I remind us all of our responsibility to lead — but also our responsibility to continue to learn and to listen."

Mills spoke of the importance of empathy, of understanding both in one's heart and head the issues and problems they seek to address.

Mills said the most underrated component of leadership is a sense of humor.

"A reminder to us all that as we seek to lead through serious issues and problems — that we leave room in our sense of ourselves not to take ourselves too seriously — a sense of perspective and irony is essential."

Read the full text of President Mills' remarks.

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The invocation was delivered by Rabbi Simeon J. Maslin, past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reformed), and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) delivered Greetings from the State.

"Maine is the best place to gather your inspiration, learn from the people around you and toughen your skin," says Pingree. "Whether you stay here to start your career or just consider us your favorite second home to visit — we will always welcome you back and you can always call us home."

Read the full text of Rep. Pingree's Greetings from the State.

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Commencement Speakers

As has been the tradition since Bowdoin's first graduation ceremony in 1806, commencement addresses were delivered by graduating seniors.

This year's speakers, chosen through competition, were Jessica Jung Eun Song and Luke John Mondello.

Class of 1868 Prize Winner Jessica Jung Eun Song

Song's address, "Our House," takes its name from a resonating chant that filled Sidney J. Watson Arena during the victorious quarterfinal playoff game against Colby.

Having moved to Maine from Korea at the age of 15, Song speaks of feeling out of place.

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"Suddenly and apparently, I was now a minority — racially, nationally and culturally — something I had never been before," says Song.

"People spoke a different language and had a different culture. When someone said, 'What's up?' I responded by looking upward. I was lost."

In the following years and on into her time at Bowdoin, Song learned English and American culture, developing a keen appreciation for what is taken for granted and how new and different can become exciting and expansive.

"If coming into our families and venturing into new cultures is about assimilation, creating the Bowdoin community is more about finding cohesion among the diverse groups of individuals," says Song. "It is about shared experiences, challenges, defeats and successes."

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Song speaks of the passion students find in their studies at the College — and the lessons learned outside of class, when assumptions and biases are challenged.

"We were confronted with ideas we might not have encountered: poverty, extreme affluence, political antipathy, gender quandaries, and race stereotypes and segregation. Here, we are fortunate to have lived side by side with people who gave a real face to these issues. We learned to be accepting and tolerant about what is unfamiliar to us."

And in opening oneself to that, Song says, a community is created, one that becomes each individual's Bowdoin experience that brings with it a sense of belonging and keys to what truly is "our house."

Read the full text of Song's address.

Goodwin Commencement Prize Winner Luke John Mondello

In his talk, "A World of Difference," Mondello sets forth to dispel the myth of the so-called "Bowdoin Bubble" — the notion that the College community is so insular that its denizens are cut off from that beyond the campus confines.

To illustrate his point that there are indeed myriad connections between Bowdoin and the world beyond, Mondello engages in a game akin to "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," in which he demonstrates that within six links on the Internet's Wikipedia, there is College connectivity even among the most random entries. Mondello uses "clicks" to represent each new link.

Mino washi is a type of Japanese paper created in the Gifu Prefecture and used in making traditional fans, lanterns and umbrellas in Gifu City (click). Gifu City is the birthplace of famed marathoner, Naoko Takahashi (click), who currently holds the Olympic record for the Women's Marathon event (click). When the Olympic Women's Marathon debuted in the 1983 summer games, Joan Benoit (click) become the events first-ever gold medalist. Joan Benoit, as you may know, walked down these very steps (click) when she graduated from Bowdoin College in 1979.
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This year, President Mills and the Events staff devised a more streamlined process for handing out diplomas.
Watch the video, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered ... It's Yours!"
Mills discusses the process in his weekly column on the Bowdoin Daily Sun.

"As graduates of this college and as products of the liberal arts philosophy, we have spent the last four years learning how to learn," says Mondello. "We have been trained to make connections, find common ground and pull together different strands of a story to create a more complete, more informed picture of reality. And we have learned to take this information and use it — not to prove a point or win an argument — but to advance and deepen our understanding of something that until quite recently, we knew nothing about."

Mondello stressed the importance of understanding the differences one may encounter, rather than attempt to discredit them. "Likewise, this is an invitation to strive to be understood by making ourselves available to those willing to hear us and appreciate what is important and different about each of us."

Read the full text of Mondello's address.

Senior Class Gift

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Senior Class President Matthew Yantakosol '10.

Senior Class President Matthew Yantakosol, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, announced a donation of $8,000 to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art on behalf of the Class of 2010.

"Not only is this a gift to Bowdoin Community, but also to the people of Brunswick," says Yantakosol.

"The museum is as an intersection between the two communities and we would like to continue to support a resource that connects one strong community to another."

Honorary Degree Recipients

Bowdoin awarded five honorary doctorates at the commencement ceremony:

  • Joan C. Countryman, pioneering educator and author of Writing to Learn Mathematics, Doctor of Human Letters

  • J. Taylor Crandall, managing partner at Oak Hill Capital Partners, chief operating officer at Keystone, Inc., philanthropist and a member of the Bowdoin College Class of 1976, Doctor of Human Letters

  • Michael McPherson, nationally known economist and Spencer Foundation president, Doctor of Human Letters

  • Eve E. Marder, leading neuroscientist, Doctor of Science

Student Commencement Address Prize Winners

Luke John Mondello, of Brooklyn, N.Y., graduates with a major in neuroscience and a minor in religion. Mondello has been an assistant with the Writing Project, and has served with Residential Life as a proctor, head proctor and head RA; he's worked for dining service as a student manager since freshman year; he worked one summer as an intern for Sustainable Bowdoin and one summer as a senior interviewer for Admissions.

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Luke John Mondello '10

In addition to all these activities are two others that he describes as his two most formative involvements — the a cappella group, The Meddiebempters, and working with Alternative Spring Break. With ASB, Mondello built houses in Mississippi, designed and facilitated leadership training programs, and in the process, he says, learned "the power of teaching as a form of service."

With the Meddies, Luke has performed at spots all over the country — singing for everyone from members of a North Carolina sorority to a German Nobel Prize winner. Last year, at the concert to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Meddies, he says he was so moved at singing with alums spanning so many different years at the College that he reports both that he came close to tears and that he isn't at all of ashamed of it.

Mondello says that among his many experiences, two have really surprised him. He discovered one in this year's independent study, in which he explored with professor Belinda Kong the portrayal of gender in Hong Kong martial arts cinema. He embarked on it as kind of an extension of his hobby of watching Kung Fu movies and says that he was "baffled" by the amount he ended up learning about the region, the history and the players of the global film industry. Also surprising was the impact his dining service job has had on his time at Bowdoin, with the folks at Moulton Union keeping him grounded and teaching him to always take pride in his work.

Jessica Jung Eun Song is originally from Seoul, South Korea. She moved to Maine when she was 15, and she is a graduate of Falmouth High School.

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Jessica Jung Eun Song '10

An economics major, she was a co-president of Bowdoin Women in Business, and she served as an at-large member of Bowdoin Student Government as a sophomore and as treasurer of her class as a junior.

Song says the Bowdoin Women in Business group has been especially important for her, allowing her to gain professional skills to complement a liberal arts education, in which she has taken classes in twelve different departments at Bowdoin.

Song has demonstrated a knack for timely topics in her choice of independent studies as well. In her junior year, her project juxtaposed the response to financial crisis of the governments of the U.S., Japan and Sweden.

This year, she undertook another independent study, this time analyzing the fundamental cause of the economic fragility of the United States.

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