Dear Bowdoin Parents,
We have reached that time of year at Bowdoin where events begin to accelerate, as winter (hopefully!) comes to an end and we look with energy and enthusiasm to the final few months of our academic calendar. For our seniors and for those of us who have come to know and admire them, it's hard to believe that four years at Bowdoin will soon come to a close. Behind this group of seniors comes a record number of applications for next year's first-year class and the promise of continued vitality for this campus. Despite the difficult economy and tension around the world, this is truly an optimistic time for Bowdoin College.
Of course, like each of you, we face challenges and tough decisions in working to maintain excellence in these complex times. For the past several months, my colleagues and I have been working diligently to understand fully Bowdoin's current and projected fiscal situation, and we have taken steps to reduce costs in order to maintain the College's financial equilibrium.
In February the Board of Trustees approved a $105.8 million operating budget — including $14.5 million for financial aid — for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2003. The Board also approved the following fee schedule for 2003-04:
|Health Insurance Fee:||340|
|Student Activities Fee:||310|
|Total Comprehensive Fee:||$37,790|
This sum represents a five percent increase in our comprehensive fee over the current year. While this is well within the range of fee increases at our peer institutions, we recognize that the cost of a Bowdoin education is a significant burden for many families. That's why we maintain our commitment to providing financial aid to students with need for all four years. While our comprehensive fee has increased by five percent, our financial aid budget is projected to increase by 6.5 percent. Need-blind admissions, whereby qualified students are admitted to Bowdoin without regard to their ability to pay our fee, remains a top priority here. Bowdoin is committed to ensuring that the best and brightest students, as represented by your daughters and sons, have the opportunity to study at Bowdoin because we understand that the quality and future of this College is inextricably linked to the quality and capacity of our students
It is legitimate to ask where all this tuition money goes. Aside from financial aid, our first priority is the maintenance and enhancement of our academic program. The quality of a Bowdoin education and our international reputation as a rigorous academic institution are among our most precious assets. Accordingly, the largest component of our budget — nearly $50 million — provides salaries, wages, and benefits to Bowdoin's faculty and staff, the people who truly represent the backbone of this College and our academic program. Additional monies pay for library books and periodicals, technology, utilities, maintenance, and a variety of other expenses.
On the revenue side, with the costs of financial aid factored in, tuition and fees cover only about 55 percent of the total cost of educating a student here. So even "full-pay" students receive a significant subsidy from the College through the annual expenditure of endowment funds generously provided by Bowdoin alumni, friends, parents, and foundations.
Bowdoin's $450 million endowment is the second largest source of funding for the College, providing 22 percent of our annual revenues. And it's this source of funding that has come under increasing pressure. As anyone with a retirement account or stock portfolio knows, the markets have not been kind in recent years. Back just a few years ago, when the economy was in much better shape, the College constructed a budget with the modest assumption that our endowment would earn seven percent a year in real terms and that we would spend five percent of the endowment each year. But in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2002, Bowdoin's endowment earned 1.5 percent. Compared with nearly every college or university in the country, Bowdoin had an exemplary year. But as I have said many times to audiences on campus, one cannot spend relative performance. Like each of you, we have to balance our checkbook every month, and so we've looked at other ways to sustain the College in a poor economy.
Some of these measures have been painful. This month, we have eliminated the equivalent of 34 full-time administrative and support staff positions at the College by not refilling vacant positions, by early retirements, and through layoffs. In addition, we were forced again this year to hold our discretionary operating budgets to zero growth in the face of rising costs. Faculty positions were not affected by these reductions, nor have we made cuts to academic department operating budgets. The cutbacks on the administrative side have required our managers to establish new priorities, and while we won't be able to do everything we had been doing, I am confident that we have taken the necessary steps to maintain excellence at Bowdoin.
Despite these financial challenges, Bowdoin's future remains bright. The budget passed by our Board of Trustees allows us to maintain our campus, purchase new equipment, pay for the construction of a new academic building, fund faculty research and student services, and provide highly competitive wages and benefits to our faculty. The College is blessed with an extraordinary campus, active and interested parents, a student body of which I am very proud, a remarkable faculty, and a devoted staff. We also have the support of thousands of alumni and dozens of foundations.
One recent award from a foundation goes to the heart of what makes the Bowdoin experience so special. In January, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the College $100,000 to support and enhance faculty involvement in our residential life program. The award, which follows a previous Mellon grant of $90,000 in 2000, is intended to promote the mixing of academic and residential life on campus, and to encourage students and faculty to meet outside the classroom. During the past two years, our students have established a wide variety of programs with Mellon funds. Activities have included faculty dinners at College Houses, dinner with Maine's governor, guest speakers, trips to Portland, a culinary series featuring guest chefs, Baxter House's "Loose Leaves" series, Howell House's "Notes ‘n Folks," Quinby House's faculty lecture series, Boody and Quinby mural projects with Professor of Art Mark Wethli, a short story book club with Professor of English Ann Kibbie, and "Indecision 2000," Baxter House's faculty/student debate. All of this has enhanced the important sense of community at the College and has drawn students closer to the faculty.
Our science faculty have also received a great deal of outside support, securing over $2 million in foundation grants last year alone. Chemist Beth Stemmler received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to acquire a MALDI/ICR mass spectrometer, making Bowdoin the only undergraduate institution in the country to have this piece of instrumentation. Biologist Bruce Kohorn obtained a confocal microscope through this same program. During the last NSF funding cycle of 2002, both new and senior faculty in biology and chemistry attracted nearly $1 million in research funds, all of which include a component for student research. This has been one of Bowdoin's most successful grant cycles ever with the NSF, and is, I believe, a harbinger of future success, given our newly renovated and upgraded science facilities — including contemporary laboratories — and many energetic, talented faculty members. Research like this is vital to our core mission because Bowdoin students are involved in this faculty research in meaningful ways, gaining first-hand knowledge and experience that significantly enhances their learning.
This outside support is a testament to the quality of the Bowdoin faculty. Each of you has undoubtedly heard about Bowdoin professors from your son or daughter — heard about a teacher who is making a difference in their lives. One of these teachers is Professor of Chemistry Ron Christensen. Professor Christensen is being honored this month by the world's largest scientific society, the American Chemical Society, for a career of involving undergraduates in important scientific research — a practice that is an integral part of teaching science at Bowdoin. For those with access to the Internet, I would invite you to read more about this important award and Ron Christensen's philosophy about teaching at:
Another member of the Bowdoin faculty, John Holt, was recently honored by the University of Peradeniya, one of the leading institutions of higher learning in South Asia. John, who is Bowdoin's William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Religion and the Humanities and chair of our religion department, received an honorary degree in recognition of his many contributions to Sri Lankan studies, particularly the study of that country's religious culture. For a look at some of the important other work and recent accomplishments of the Bowdoin faculty, download a copy of my most recent annual report at:
Of course, not all of the accomplishments at Bowdoin take place in the classroom. Some of the most exciting developments have involved sweat, teamwork, sportsmanship, great coaching, and pure athletic skill. Our winter sports teams have just completed successful seasons. The success of our women's hockey and basketball squads has been especially exciting. Both teams have stood out among our NESCAC rivals, and both are enjoying well-deserved national recognition. In addition, our women's squash team finished ninth in their national tournament, winning the Kurtz Cup. Heartfelt congratulations must also go to men's ice hockey coach Terry Meagher, who surpassed former Bowdoin coaching legend Sid Watson with his 327th career victory on February 14. Terry's new record serves as a tribute both to his excellent coaching on the ice and to his ability to inspire success for his students in the classroom during the past 20 years.
In the arts, Bowdoin is seeing a resurgence in theater and dance, thanks to a dedicated group of faculty, fresh talent, and a strong curriculum. Our refurbished Pickard Theater and the new Wish Theater have been home to wonderful public performances this year, including recent productions of "Into the Woods" in Pickard and an honors project in Wish based on Persian mythology that involved over 20 actors, four musicians, student designers, and two children from the local community to create a memorable performance. The remaining weeks of the semester promise to be equally lively, with performances of "In the Heart of America" and the Spring Dance Concert, a favorite in Brunswick! We will also soon announce publicly a remarkable gift to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. William H. Alexander of Savannah, Georgia, who came to know Bowdoin in the 1980s, recently bequeathed his art collection to the Museum. This exciting gift of art, which will be on exhibition following a future renovation of the historic Walker Art Building, substantially strengthens the Museum's holdings in 20th-century art with works by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Magritte, Gorky, Calder, and Miro.
Lastly, I wanted to write a few words in praise of those Bowdoin students who, on top of all their academic work, their rehearsals and performances, and their athletic commitments, find the time to make substantial contributions to our local community and to society. Today there are 36 Bowdoin students tutoring in local public schools and an additional 45 students serving as mentors to Brunswick Junior High School students. Students are raising money for and offering their time and skills toward the construction of Bowdoin's first Habitat for Humanity home. And as I write this, 20 Bowdoin students are forgoing a relaxing Spring Break in order to provide hands-on community service in impoverished areas of Guatemala City, Guatemala, and Lima, Peru.
These students embody Bowdoin's long-standing commitment to serving the common good, something we take very seriously. Many of those most involved in serving others are our seniors, all of whom will be leaving us in a matter of weeks in what is always a bittersweet occasion for the College. We will hate to see them go, but we will send them on their way grateful for their contributions, secure in the knowledge that they are well prepared, and confident in their ability to contribute much to our society and to the world. But they each have some more work to do before we'll let them go!
Today our world appears to be on the brink of war. Our campus, like many all over America, has been paying close and constant attention to world developments in a genuine attempt to learn and to encourage dialogue and debate that is constructive and mature. As in the population at large, there are a variety of strongly held opinions here about the wisdom of or need for war. As we have discussed and debated the matter on campus, I have been impressed with the sophistication and maturity of your sons and daughters, as well as with the strength of the arguments they have put forth on all sides of the issue. From the relative serenity and security of Brunswick, our thoughts are with the thousands of men and women in harm's way.
As I said at the outset, this is an optimistic time for Bowdoin. It is so in large measure because of the support, interest, and encouragement each of you provides. I hope to see you on campus whenever you are able.
With best wishes,