Barry Mills is currently serving his thirteenth year as Bowdoin’s president. He was inaugurated as Bowdoin's fourteenth president in October 2001 as the College was beginning its 200th academic year.
During his tenure, Mills has underscored the primacy of Bowdoin’s academic program and has worked with the faculty to redefine a liberal arts education for the twenty-first century. Together with former Dean for Academic Affairs Craig McEwen, Mills led the first major curriculum reform at Bowdoin since the early 1980s.
Under his leadership, the College has also successfully recommitted itself to the goal of expanding ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic diversity among students and employees.
During this period, Bowdoin has taken advantage of its location along the coast of Maine and has strengthened its Coastal Studies and Environmental Studies programs and has creating a new academic program in Earth and Oceanographic Sciences. Under his leadership, the College also launched a new program in Digital and Computational Studies.
Mills has worked to increase national visibility for Bowdoin and also initiated a comprehensive campus master planning study to guide future development on the campus. He has worked to bolster the humanities and to strengthen and increase support for the arts at the College, completing a major expansion and renovation of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art; a conversion of the Curtis Pool building into the Studzinski Recital Hall and 280-seat Kanbar Auditorium; and a complete renovation of the former Longfellow Elementary School into the new Edwards Center for Art and Dance.
Student residential life has also been improved during the Mills presidency through the construction of new residence halls and the renovation of existing residential facilities, the Peter Buck Center for Health and Fitness, and the Sidney J. Watson Ice Arena. The College also established the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good during the Mills presidency.
Improved opportunity and access to Bowdoin has been a priority of the Mills administration. Mills has repeatedly declared financial aid fundraising to be the single most important initiative at the College. In 2008 the College announced the replacement of student loans with grants for all students receiving financial aid, beginning with the 2008-09 academic year.
Bowdoin’s endowment — of which 45% is restricted to financial aid — has continued to grow during Mills’s tenure, surpassing the $1 billion mark for the first time in June 2013. Mills successfully led “The Bowdoin Campaign,” a five-year fundraising effort that concluded in June 2009. The campaign, which exceeded its goal of $250 million, has enhanced Bowdoin's academic program by adding faculty and by focusing resources on the faculty/student experience, faculty scholarship, and the intellectual life of the College. The College has also acquired significant additional space for the future during the Mills presidency, adding 175 acres of developable land following the closure of the nearby Brunswick Naval Air Station.
Mills has emphasized sustainability efforts at the College through the construction of "green" facilities and other conservation and sustainability efforts. In 2007 Mills joined leaders of more than 270 institutions across the country in pledging to reduce sharply and eventually eliminate all of the College's global warming emissions, and to accelerate the research and educational efforts to equip society to restabilize the earth's climate. In October 2013 he announced Bowdoin’s plans to build a solar power array that will be nearly eight times larger than any other in Maine and that will produce about eight percent of the College’s annual electricity usage.
In 2010 Bowdoin launched the Bowdoin Daily Sun, a daily blog that offers news and information about and from the College, as well as regular columns by President Mills and others about Bowdoin and other topics of interest to members of the Bowdoin community.
Mills, who holds a doctorate in biology as well as a law degree, previously served as the deputy presiding partner of Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City, one of the nation's preeminent international law firms. He joined the firm in 1979 and became a partner in 1986. His work at Debevoise concentrated on corporate law, real estate and corporate finance.
Born in Providence, RI, President Mills graduated in 1968 from Pilgrim High School in Warwick, RI. A Dean's List student at Bowdoin, Mills graduated cum laude in 1972 with a double major in biochemistry and government. He earned his doctorate in biology in 1976 at Syracuse University. He earned his law degree at the Columbia University School of Law in 1979, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar.
President Mills is married to Karen Gordon Mills, the former Administrator of Small Business Administration (SBA) in the Obama Administration, who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School and at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. Since 1983 Karen Mills has been an active leader in managing and growing small businesses and in public policy around innovation and job creation. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1975 with a degree in economics and earned her MBA at the Harvard Business School in 1977. She is a member of the Harvard Corporation, known formally as the President and Fellows of Harvard College — Harvard’s principal fiduciary governing board. President and Karen Mills have three sons: William, Henry, and George, all graduates of Brunswick High School.
Barry Mills was a member of the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees from 1994 until 2000. He follows Samuel Harris (1867-71), Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1871-83), Kenneth C.M. Sills (1918-52), and Roger Howell, Jr. (1969-78) as the fifth alumnus of the College to serve as president.
Mills announced in April 2014 that he will step down as Bowdoin president in June 2015 at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 academic year.