Barry Mills was inaugurated as Bowdoin's 14th president in October 2001 as the College was beginning its 200th academic year.
During his tenure as president, 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.
The College has also successfully recommitted itself to the goal of expanding ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic diversity among students and employees.
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. Mills has also worked to strengthen and increase support for the arts at the College, completing a major expansion and renovation of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and a conversion of the Curtis Pool building into the Studzinski Recital Hall and 280-seat Kanbar Auditorium. Student residential life has also been improved through the construction of new residence halls and the renovation of existing residential facilities, the new Peter Buck Center for Health and Fitness, and the new Sidney J. Watson Ice Arena. The College also established the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good during the Mills presidency.
Bowdoin’s endowment has continued to grow, having more than doubled in value since 2011. The College has also been able to maintain its financial equilibrium during the economic downturn that began in 2008. 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.
Improved opportunity and access to Bowdoin has been a priority of the Mills administration, with nearly one-third of the funds raised in “The Bowdoin Campaign” used for student financial aid. Mills has repeatedly declared financial aid fundraising to be the single most important initiative at the College . In 2008, the College announced that it would replace student loans with grants for all students receiving financial aid, beginning with the 2008-09 academic year.
Mills has also 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 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 G. Mills, the 23rd Administrator of Small Business Administration (SBA) in Washington, DC. Her nomination by President Barack Obama was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on April 3, 2009. Since 1983 she 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. President and Karen Mills have three sons.
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.
In February 2011, Mills announced that he will serve at least another five years as Bowdoin's president.