Bowdoin Celebrates Baccalaureate 2012

Story posted May 25, 2012


Bowdoin College held its 2012 Baccalaureate ceremony Friday, May 25, marking the official close of the academic year and celebrating the College's 207th Commencement (to be held Saturday, May 26).

View the 2012 Baccalaureate slideshow.

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(L. to r.) Baccalaureate speakers Humaira Awais Shahid, Barry Mills, Tim Foster and Tanu Kumar '12.

President Barry Mills presided over the ceremony, and addressed the role of a liberal arts education in the context of a new information environment.

He spoke of predictions of how technology will make education universally accessible, more efficient and possibly less expensive, and how the College can remain an institution the most talented and sophisticated students seek to learn and grow.

"I believe we maintain and even enhance our position by being mindful of the opportunities to leverage the vast store of information and knowledge available through technology," says Mills.

"We also should consider as our responsibility how we make our form of education available to all of those learners in the world who don’t have the privilege of spending four years at our College.

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Baccalaureate 2012 in Sidney J. Watson Arena May 25, 2012.

"The fact is that knowledge and information are fundamental, but are they not enough. One must also possess the wisdom and judgment necessary to interpret the information and to execute on the knowledge. And that is where a Bowdoin education excels. The development of judgment, analysis, critical thinking, and wisdom are at the heart of our mission here, and, in my view, these important attributes are — and always will be — developed most effectively through close personal interaction between students and gifted educators at a college and on a campus like Bowdoin."

Mills also spoke of computational thinking and how this mode of inquiry is no longer limited to the areas of mathematics and computer science.

"Our faculty, our students and our staff also engage computational thinking and analysis in sociology, art history, biology, chemistry, economics, history, philosophy, English, dance, music, the environment, art and on and on," says Mills. "The power of computational thinking and its counterpart, technology, are today grounded in our contemporary liberal arts tradition."

In closing, Mills thanked the faculty and staff for their dedication and wished the Class of 2012 "success and a life of learning and deeds well done." Read the full text of President Mills' address.

Voices from Bowdoin's Past
Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster delivered "Voices from Bowdoin's Past," a Bowdoin Baccalaureate tradition, in which he shares the story of how the Polar Bear came to be the College mascot.

"The decision to officially adopt the polar bear as the emblem of Bowdoin College was taken not here in Brunswick, but on Broadway in New York City at the Sherman Square Hotel," said Foster.

"There, in 1913 during the 43th annual meeting of the Bowdoin College Alumni Association, diners decided it was high time that the College had a mascot to match Princeton's tiger or Yale's bulldog."

Deciding on the Polar Bear was the easy part; it was left to Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan to actually produce one for the new trophy room in Sargent Gym.

"MacMillan was thrilled with the choice," relays Foster, sharing correspondence from explorer. "In the selection of Nanuq, the King of the North," he said, "Bowdoin has selected well. Upon him, she can place her trust." Read the text of Dean Foster's "Voices from Bowdoin's Past" talk in its entirety.

DeAlva Stanwood Alexander First Prize Winner Tanu Kumar '12
Tanu Kumar, a government and legal studies major and economics minor from Washington, D.C., delivered the address, "Beginning from Home," in which she examines the aspects of home, from the comfortable and familiar aspects of one's environment to the feeling one can achieve anywhere.

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Tanu Kumar '12

"The Offer of the College promises to allow you 'to be at home in all lands and all ages," says Kumar.

"In my past four years here, this promise has been fulfilled by another piece of the Offer — the guarantee that we will be able to carry the keys of the world's library in our pocket. I have found that I can most easily return to my passions and myself through books. But of course, this will not be true for everyone. Maybe you reclaim yourself in nature — on a hike with the outing club, on a run through the commons, or on a boat during crew practice. Or maybe both creating and appreciating art — playing in a band, working on a photo project, watching movies (or excuse me, films) — is what makes you feel most like yourself.

"In any case, I truly believe that at Bowdoin, we have all experienced moments of extreme focus when we have "lost ourselves in generous enthusiasms," moments that we can access somehow through reading, swimming, walking, or any number of methods. As long as we know and keep with us ways to recall these moments, we will be able to recreate a feeling of home in the times we need its comfort the most." Read the text of Kumar's address in its entirety.

Keynote Address: Humaira Awais Shahid
Humaira Awais Shahid, journalist, activist and provincial legislator in Pakistan, and 2012 honorary degree recipient, delivered the keynote address, "The Long Arm of God," in which she shared her passion for speaking out for those who cannot speak for themselves, achieved, she says, through cultivating awareness.

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Humaira Awais Shahid

"Like everyone else, the core of my journey has been to understand my life," says Shahid. "Life cannot be lived by a set of formulas. I was fortunate enough to recognize my external reality from my inner life. I understood that life is not about being born in Kuwait, raised up in Lahore, and conferencing in Boston, but life is actually a journey of consciousness towards its source, understanding the experience of being human, understanding our limitations as a human, learning our potential as a human."

Shahid also spoke of what she called the struggling question of how to define success, and cautioned against subscribing to society's definition.

"I realized once you are in the race of success, you are in a perpetual fear of losing and being trampled. It’s like a mass panic of racing after material things and following a definition of success what has been defined for you. I decided to step out of the herd and follow my heart. Instead of chasing success, seek significance. Determine your own direction and follow your own dream. Success ends the day you die, significance will always outlast you! So today I work in peace, conviction and devotion without the mania of success." Read the text of Shahid's address in its entirety.

Baccalaureate Music
Music was provided by violinists Stephen Kaapuni Wagner '12 and Yojin Yoon '12, cellist Maren Elise Askins '12 and keyboardist Craig Alexander Comen '12, who performed Johann Sebastian Bach's Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor for the ceremony's interlude. Later Comen, this time on piano, was accompanied by singers Coretta Denise King '12 and Christine Constance Buckland '12 as they lead the audience in a rendition of "Raise Songs to Bowdoin."

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