Campus News

Bowdoin to Award 443 Degrees at 206th Commencement May 28

Story posted May 20, 2011

Bowdoin will hold its 206th Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 28, 2011, and confer bachelor of arts degrees on 443 graduates.

Schedule of events, answers to frequently asked questions and other Commencement information here.

President Barry Mills will preside over commencement and award degrees on the terrace of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art on the Quad. In the event of very severe weather, commencement will be held in Sidney J. Watson Arena. (Bowdoin has not held an indoor commencement since 1986.)

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Of the 443 graduates, 55 are from Maine. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia are represented, including Massachusetts with 84 students, New York with 51, and California and Connecticut with 29 apiece. Twenty graduates are international students, representing 10 countries.

Honorary Degree Recipient Talks

While the honorary degree recipients will not give speeches at the commencement ceremony, they will participate in a variety of talks scheduled Friday, May 27, with members of the campus community.

Cynthia Friend will lead a discussion about her research from 2 to 3 p.m. in Cleaveland 151, Druckenmiller Hall.

Henry Millon leads a discussion about architectural history from 3 to 4 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center.

Mira Nair delivers the keynote address "Between Worlds" and Béla Fleck performs during the College's baccalaureate ceremony, which marks the official end of the academic year and begins at 4:30 p.m. in Sidney J. Watson Arena.

Commencement Weekend Speakers

Since 1806, Bowdoin has given the honor of speaking at commencement to graduating seniors. Until 1877 every graduate had a speaking part. The custom of selecting student commencement speakers through competition began in the 1880s.

Past speakers have included poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1825, House Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed 1860, Arctic explorer Robert E. Peary 1877 and biologist and researcher Alfred Kinsey '16.

Joelinda Coichy '11 and Edward Stevens Gottfried '11 are this year's commencement speakers.

Other participants include former Governor of Maine John Baldacci, who will deliver greetings from the State, and the Reverend Richard A. Bamforth '51, assisting priest at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Augusta, Maine, will deliver the invocation.

Bowdoin will award honorary doctorates to Gov. Baldacci, Grammy Award-winning banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, pioneering chemist and researcher Cynthia M. Friend, Renaissance and Baroque era architectural history scholar Henry A. Millon, and internationally acclaimed filmmaker and producer Mira Nair.

Commencement History

Bowdoin College was chartered in 1794, and held its first commencement ceremony in 1806 in the second meetinghouse of First Parish Church across the street from the College. There were seven graduates in the Class of 1806. The following year saw the smallest graduating class in the College's history, with just three members in the Class of 1807.

The best-known class was the Class of 1825. In addition to Longfellow, the class included writer Nathaniel Hawthorne. In 1875, on the day before commencement at the 50th reunion of the class, Longfellow recited his poem "Morituri Salutamus," an elegiac reflection on youth and age.

Other notable Bowdoin graduates include President Franklin Pierce 1824, African-American newspaper editor John Brown Russwurm 1826, Civil War hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain 1852, former U.S. Senator and architect of the Ireland peace accord George Mitchell '54, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen '62, and Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson '79.

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