August 6, 2003
Good afternoon. It is an honor and my pleasure to represent Bowdoin College at these ceremonies. I am the second member of the Mills family to participate in ceremonies promoting this occasion. My 11-year-old son George reminded me proudly this morning that he had the pleasure of presenting to the museum a check representing the money raised by the third grade at Longfellow School for the fence. So, as the much less interesting member of the Mills family, I am pleased to be here today to continue George’s tradition of commitment to General Chamberlain and his home.
Today we celebrate the 175th birthday of General Chamberlain as well as a major milestone in the ongoing and tireless campaign to restore his home. The work being done here, along with the statue and landscaping across the street, have created a beacon at this very busy intersection that is the gateway to our College. What’s happening here is transformative, and at Bowdoin, we are certainly among the beneficiaries. This area is really our front door – the first spot our visitors, alumni, and returning students see when they approach our campus. I can think of no better symbol than the courage, leadership, and sense of service and honor embodied by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.
As I mentioned in May at the statue dedication, the reflected glow of Chamberlain’s rediscovered life continues to honor and promote interest in Bowdoin today. Just this week I greeted each and every one of our new 470 first year students, and again this year a number of the students said their initial interest in Bowdoin grew out of their admiration for Chamberlain. And it is the work being done here by the Pejepscot Historical Society and its supporters that allows this interest in Chamberlain to flourish and permits whole new generations to learn about this community’s favorite son.
So we owe all of you who support this work a debt of gratitude, and we are also indebted to General Chamberlain himself. Many facets of our modern college are linked to his leadership. Our increasingly diverse student body, our comprehensive curriculum, our close student-faculty relationships – even our endowment – trace their roots to the 12-year Chamberlain presidency – a period Chamberlain himself once called “thankless and wasteful.” Of course he had no notion that his modern ideas would one day not only grow acceptable, but also essential components of a thriving educational community. As he paced in the parlor of this home, he must have thought that the old mules across the street at the College would never see things his way! Of course, his successors as president all learned from General Chamberlain’s example.
As Willard M. Wallace asserted in his book, The Soul of the Lion, “…the modern college dates from [Chamberlain].” We are proud of our association with this great man – our student, professor, and president – and we applaud the work both accomplished and ongoing at this house, and the efforts of all who strive to keep the Chamberlain legacy alive.