Campus News

Bowdoin to Award 450 Degrees at 207th Commencement May 26

Story posted May 22, 2012

Bowdoin will hold its 207th Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 26, 2012, and confer bachelor of arts degrees on 450 graduates.

Watch Commencement live online here.

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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.)

Of the 450 graduates, 58 are from Maine. Forty states and the District of Columbia are represented, including Massachusetts with 82 students, New York with 48, California with 27 and Connecticut with 25. Twenty-three graduates are international students, representing 15 countries.

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.

Honorary Degree Recipient Talks and Baccalaureate May 25

While the honorary degree recipients will not give speeches at the Commencement ceremony, they will participate in a variety of talks scheduled Friday, May 25.

Margaret W. Conkey will present the talk “Not All of our Ancestors Were Cavemen: Landscape Archaeology in the French Pyrénées.”
1:30 p.m., Smith Auditorium, Sills Hall.

Cynthia McFadden '78 will lead a moderated conversation with Agnes Gund and Carrie Mae Weems, 2:45 p.m., Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center.

The Baccalaureate Ceremony
Journalist, human rights activist, and Pakistani legislator Humaira Awais Shahid will present the keynote address, and Tanu Kumar ’12 will deliver the student address, “Beginning from Home,” 4:30 p.m., Sidney J. Watson Arena.

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.

Chanwoong Baek ’12 and William Marvin Alexander ’12 are this year’s Commencement speakers.

Other participants include Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson ’79, who will deliver greetings from the State, and the Reverend Mary E. Baard, senior minister at Brunswick’s First Parish Church, will deliver the invocation.

Bowdoin will award honorary doctorates to archaeologist Margaret W. Conkey, philanthropist Agnes Gund, television journalist Cynthia McFadden ’78, human rights activist Humaira Awais Shahid and artist Carrie Mae Weems.

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 and former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen '62.

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