440 Degrees Awarded at Bowdoin’s 206th Commencement

Story posted May 28, 2011

During Bowdoin College's 206th Commencement ceremony, 440 bachelor of arts degrees were awarded to students from 38 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and 10 foreign countries.

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(L. to r.) Class President Grant Easterbrook '11 with Commencement speakers Joelinda Coichy '11 and Edward Gottfried '11.

Bowdoin President Barry Mills presided over the ceremony and after welcoming remarks, continued his Commencement tradition of speaking about leadership.

"In my view, there are two critical components of leadership: a sense of humility and a sense of humor," said Mills.

He told the graduates leadership requires empathy, and an understanding both in one's heart and head of the issues and problems he or she seeks to solve.

"A Bowdoin leader leaves his or her ego at the door. And so, on this very important and celebratory day, I remind us all of our responsibility to lead but also our responsibility to continue to learn and to listen. Listening is a much-underrated element of leadership."

Mills reminded the audience that among the most underrated components of leadership is the ability to maintain a sense of humor.

"As we seek to lead by tackling serious issues and problems, we must also leave room to not take ourselves too seriously. A sense of perspective and irony is essential."

Read the full text of President Mills’ remarks.

The invocation was delivered by the Reverend Richard A. Bamforth '51, assisting priest at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Augusta, Maine, and former Governor John Baldacci, D-Maine, delivered Greetings from the State.

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 Joelinda Coichy and Edward Gottfried.

Class of 1868 Prize Winner Joelinda Coichy

In her address, "'The Bowdoin Hello': To Know and Be Known," Coichy, a government and legal studies major and Spanish minor from Medford, Mass., examines the custom of extending a greeting to those one encounters on campus and shares opportunities presented by opening herself to be known by others in the Bowdoin community.

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"In not too long, many of us will find ourselves, in cities or new environments with new winds and new tests," said Coichy. "But in spite of these obstacles, we must carry with us the tradition of “the Bowdoin hello.” This hello is not merely a greeting. It is a lifestyle of engagement in our communities and in our world. And it is taken on by individuals willing to make themselves known no matter how scary it might be."

Read the full text of Coichy’s address.

Coichy has received many campus awards, including The President’s Award, Common Good Book Award and William H. Moody ’56 Award. Coicy is moving to Atlanta to work for Vitrue, a social media management company. She says the three most important activities to her have been her work in the McKeen Center as a community immersion pre-orientation fellow, her work with the youth membership of Pathway Vineyard Church and the connection that gave her to her involvement in the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship; and her work with the admissions office, which she says gave her the pleasure of sharing Bowdoin with students from all over the country.

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Goodwin Commencement Prize Winner Edward Gottfried

Gottfried’s talk, “The Marks We Make,” celebrates a graffiti- and carving-laden wooden door within the Chapel, drawing parallels between the informal history recorded there and the impact one leaves on the College and on others’ lives.

“Though we may be left with regrets now that we haven’t done enough to leave the college different than we found it, even in our moments of frivolity we’ve managed to carve out a little reminder of our lives here,” says Gottfried, a classics major from Nashville, Tenn.

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“So I urge my classmates, as you leave Bowdoin, take the dates, the names, the anxieties and the triumphs with you, and carve, pencil, or Sharpie them into your memory. And then revisit them later and cherish the marks that you’ve made and admire the marks of your peers: We were here. 5-28-11. Bowdoin College Class of 2011.”

Read the full text of Gottfried’s address.

Gottfried studied abroad in Rome, in a program centered around the study of Roman history through the archaeological evidence in the city, and he just completed his honors thesis, “Prolepsis and Analepsis: Reading The Waste Land through Classical Allusion.” He has been a member of the Judicial Board, serving as chair his senior year; has sung with the co-ed a cappella group BOKA, and has been both a tour guide and a senior interviewer for admissions.

Baccalaureate 2011
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Baccalaureate 2011 in Sidney J. Watson Arena

Read about Bowdoin’s Baccalaureate ceremony, held Friday, May 27, 2011, which included talks by Aaron Cole '11, acclaimed filmmaker Mira Nair H’11 and a performance by Béla Fleck H'11.


Honorary Degree Recipients

Bowdoin awarded five honorary doctorates at the commencement ceremony:

  • John Baldacci, 73rd Governor of the State of Maine (2003-2011)
  • Béla Fleck, Grammy Award-winning banjo virtuoso
  • Cynthia M. Friend, pioneering chemist and researcher
  • Henry A. Millon, Renaissance and Baroque era architectural history scholar
  • Mira Nair, internationally acclaimed filmmaker and producer

Senior Class Gift

Senior Class President Grant Easterbrook announced gifts to the College in memory of classmate Nick Barnett, who died in a car accident during Thanksgiving break 2007. Gifts include $5,000 to complete the endowment on a boat named after Barnett, who had been a member of the sailing team and a plaque to be placed in The Peter S. Buck Center for Health and Fitness.

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Commencement Music

Pianist Florence Feng Sun '11 accompanied senior members of Chamber Choir, Chorus and student a cappella groups in the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Raise Songs to Bowdoin."

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