President's Speeches and Remarks

June 4, 2005

Good morning.

Welcome back to Bowdoin. And to those of you “from away,” welcome back to Maine.
It is really an honor for me to stand before you this morning as president of Bowdoin. Like you, I am proud to be an alumnus of this great college. Bowdoin provided an education that has enabled me to achieve whatever success I have had in this world. My years here were transforming because like many of you, they opened and prepared my mind for countless possibilities and for the challenges ahead.

I’ve said it many times, but I have to restate that I am enormously proud – as an alumnus who reveres the history and traditions of this college – to have the opportunity to lead Bowdoin. I also admit to being more than a little humbled by the responsibility I have to all of you who feel so deeply for this College and are committed to its future.

I remain confident that with the support of the enormously talented people in this room and the thousands of Bowdoin alumni and friends around the country and world, that together – during our time – we will chart and sustain a course for this college that will ensure its continued excellence.

Again this year, Bowdoin has been the beneficiary of a striking level of generous support from alumni, parents and friends – support that means a great deal financially, but also represents a gratifying level of confidence in the College by people who matter a great deal, and who know Bowdoin best. From alumni who appreciate first-hand the lasting benefits of a Bowdoin education, to friends who see this college as a beacon, to past and present parents who, in addition to meeting the significant costs of educating their daughters and sons here, step forward to do even more.

In a few moments, you will hear about the impressive level of giving by the classes represented in this room today. This is your time to take pride in all that you do for Bowdoin and, through Bowdoin, for higher education in America. And it is a time for us to thank you once again, wholeheartedly, for your vital support.

As you walk around this campus on this beautiful spring weekend in Maine, I hope you also have a sense of pride in your College.  Ours is among the most beautiful and historic college campuses in the world.  And I am certain that as you stand in the middle of the quad this weekend you will all remember what a special place this is and what it means to you.

As we think about Bowdoin at this time in its history we are guided in all of our efforts by the core principles of this College:  

The education of our students in the liberal arts tradition represented by the primacy of the academic program of the College in all that we do.  A corollary to this principle is a college with talented, dedicated faculty who are wonderful teachers and scholars, researchers and artists.

The opportunity for students of all backgrounds and socio economic means to come to this College to learn – through the same admissions door and with a commitment of support for four years.

The residential life program that includes athletics, clubs, outing clubs, music, singing groups and on and on at this College that allows our students to mature, develop judgment and develop lifelong friendships with each other, faculty , staff and even presidents.

And finally, the commitment of this College to the Common Good that benefits our Brunswick community and all of your communities because we are a place where our graduates go off into their communities to become leaders of principle committed to making important contributions to their communities both here and abroad.

The College is today a place that respects it history and is ambitious for its future.  We are not a self-satisfied place.  Over the past two years, and for the first time in over 20 years, our faculty have adopted new distribution requirements that set forth in distinct ways what we believe it means to be educated in the liberal arts tradition at this time in our very complex world.  We understand that no student should graduate from Bowdoin without learning about science and gaining some proficiency with numbers.  But, at the same time we also understand that to be liberally educated students must be exposed to the arts and to the humanities.  And our students must be comfortable dealing with international perspectives and understanding and appreciating social difference.   

We also understand that what is special about a Bowdoin education is the commitment of our faculty to our students and to their own research and scholarship.  We are a place of small classes, close relationship between students and faculty – there are no graduate students or postdocs here.  The Bowdoin faculty of today and the future understands the importance of real scholarship, important research and artistic work.  It is critical for the vitality of the faculty and it is important for our students.  Our students are involved in this research and scholarship throughout the academic year and these are not quaint collaborations.  This is work with our faculty that is sophisticated, cutting edge work. In my day at Bowdoin, students hung around in the summer to paint houses.  Today there are many, many students working here with the faculty doing important work in laboratories, the library and the studio.  These are opportunities for learning available at Bowdoin – and frankly not opportunities available at some of the best research universities in America.  

Bowdoin is defined by the quality, talent and enthusiasm of our students.  We choose our students with great care, and those we admit would be qualified to study just about anywhere.    Arriving from all fifty states and countries around the world, they bring to Bowdoin a wealth of personal experiences, representing varied cultural, economic, and religious backgrounds.  We welcome them to Bowdoin regardless of their ability to pay our fees because we know that ability and character are not linked to family income.  We invite them to come to join us because we know our community will be a better place because of their diverse perspective.  But, most of all, we invite students of need to come to this College because it simply is our responsibility – we should be a place committed to creating life changing opportunity for our students.  And, we are a place committed to this principle.  

The learning that goes on in our classrooms and laboratories and studios is at the heart of the educational experience at Bowdoin, but we offer a great deal more.  As dancers, debaters, artists, athletes, newspaper reporters, College House presidents, community volunteers, Outing Club participants – and in countless other ways – Bowdoin students revel in a residential life experience that contributes immeasurably to their personal growth and serves as a powerful complement to our academic program.

Like all of you here today, Bowdoin students today graduate with the same commitment to their friends and classmates, and with the same strong sense of service to the common good.

And so we have much to value here at Bowdoin.  We are among the very few most distinguished liberal arts colleges in America, we stand out prominently in that company because of our intimate size and warm sense of community; decency and friendship; our long-standing commitment to first generation college students; our genuine socioeconomic diversity and our deep, treasured links with the people, history, integrity and natural beauty of Maine and the environment.  Combined with academic opportunities that rival anything our peers have to offer, these factors make a Bowdoin education an extraordinary preparation for leadership and life.

While other colleges aspire to reach our level of distinction, we seek to move forward confidently with your support and the thousands of other Bowdoin alums, parents and friends who appreciate the excellence of Bowdoin and its very special place in education.

I have visited many of you and with other alumni over these past four years, and I am proud to report that our alumni community continues to display the energy and determination that are required to achieve all that we want and expect for Bowdoin.

Colleges and universities across the country yearn to have an alumni group as talented, as generous, and as enthusiastic as this one. Bowdoin creates and nurtures special relationships with its sons and daughters. We respect and value those relationships and look forward to building even stronger ties with each of you as we advance the mission of this wonderful college.

Let me leave you with this final thought – life brings many twists and turns to us all – but for all of us – Bowdoin alums parents and friends – how did we get so lucky in life to be connected to this very special place – Bowdoin?

Karen and I are delighted to have you back on campus with us today, and we look forward to speaking with as many of you as we can this weekend, and to welcoming you again as many times in the future as you are able to return.

Now, enjoy the weekend!
I hope you take time to tour the campus, visit with faculty and staff, and take pleasure in your classmates, family and friends.
I hope you’ll revel in some nostalgia for Bowdoin’s past, take pride in the Bowdoin of today, and recommit yourselves to our important work together to shape an even stronger Bowdoin of tomorrow.

Thank you.