President's Speeches and Remarks

May 13, 2005

Thank you Don, and welcome everyone. The renovation of the Walker Art Building is a long overdue project for the College.  Trustees of years ago have told me that this project was on the agenda in the years Bowdoin decided to admit women – which goes back to when I was a student – seems long ago. It is a project that will transform this building and our campus. With the utmost respect for this historic and proud structure, the work we begin today will protect our extraordinary art collection, make it much more accessible, and create for this community and the State of Maine an unparalleled destination for those who truly appreciate these exceptional treasures.

But most importantly, this is a museum for our faculty and students.  It is an integral part of our academic program and will allow future generations of faculty and students and staff to learn in this historic structure. This project has taken a great deal of thought, planning, and creativity on the part of many. And there are many people who deserve special recognition for their vision and perseverance.  The list reads like the history of Bowdoin during the last half of the last century.

To start, I must recognize those who fought long and hard, year after year, from the very beginning: Al Fuchs and Katharine Watson. Thirty years ago, in the 1970s, Al, then dean of the faculty, and Katharine, director of the Museum, first brought to the attention of the Board of Trustees the dire need for climate control within the Museum to protect the valuable collections housed there. From budget cycle to budget cycle, campaign to campaign, the project was a priority, but alas, deferred. In the 1990’s, Bob and Blythe Edwards reignited the spark to create momentum again for the project.  Along with members of the Museum of Art Executive Advisory Council, it was really four people who have championed this project and made it happen.  First, Katy Kline, with her tireless commitment to this project.  David Becker was a gentle and not so gentle, but always appropriate, advocate.  Don Zuckert, as a trustee and as chair, has been committed to making this happen – reminding us of the importance of art and education.  And, most importantly, Linda Roth.  I want to personally thank Linda on behalf of a very grateful College for her insight, Perseverance, patience and support.

Of course, one of the major hurdles for moving forward has been the staggering cost to do this work, and to do it right. We clearly would not be here today without the tremendous generosity of our lead donors – Linda Roth, Bernard Osher, and Don Zuckert. To you, I extend the most sincere appreciation of the entire Bowdoin community.

Barney Osher could not be with us today, but I would like to invite Linda and Don to join me in breaking this ground for what will be one of the most significant capital projects in the long and distinguished history of Bowdoin College. Would our museum director, Katy Kline, and architect Jorge Silvetti also grab shovels and join in the occasion?

Thank you. I now invite you to step inside the rotunda for our reception.