President's Speeches and Remarks

November 10, 2006

This is an important moment for Bowdoin, and I am personally grateful that so many of you — our Trustees, alumni, parents, friends, and members of the College — are here with us tonight for the launch of The Bowdoin Campaign. The Bowdoin Campaign is vital to the future of our College and with the enthusiasm of this crowd our Bowdoin Campaign is certain to be a resounding success.

I want to thank our Trustees; the members of our Campaign Planning and Campaign Steering committees; our honorary campaign chairs, Stan Druckenmiller, Fred Thorne, and Barry Wish for their leadership and support; I especially want to thank our campaign co-chairs Bobby White and Debbie Barker who have both worked so enthusiastically and passionately to bring us this far and who will see this effort through to what I know will be a tremendously successful and exciting conclusion.

Thanks also to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for hosting us this evening. Tom Putnam of the Bowdoin Class of 1984 is the acting director of this important and historic place. He and his staff have been wonderful to work with.

And let me thank the members of our residential community who made tonight happen. Bill Torrey and the entire development staff for their tireless and inspired work. And, our impresarios of tonight's event, Alison Bennie, Kathy Billings, Scott Hood, Davis Robinson, and Vin Shende.

This is an important and very fun event for Bowdoin, but let's face it, it's a Friday evening, a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Judging from the traffic outside when we arrived, the holiday season has started early in Boston. But you, our Bowdoin community, have made the effort of being here, and many of you have been in Boston all day taking part in Trustee meetings or participating in academic presentations by members of our faculty.

For Karen and me, it is wonderfully gratifying to be associated with a place that has this kind of intense meaning for so many people...a commitment that brings each of you to our celebration to focus your energies and talents on the important task ahead.

It is also wonderfully gratifying and humbling to be associated with and lead a college that engenders so much loyalty...to be part of a college experience so meaningful and memorable that when we approach busy people like George Mitchell or Cynthia McFadden or Stan Druckenmiller or Ken Chenault or Elliott Kanbar or any of the people you've heard from tonight...when we ask students to perform and faculty to present and direct...when we ask people to share their Bowdoin stories and to help us convey the essence of a Bowdoin education, they agree without hesitation to help and to recount their days at Bowdoin with the heartfelt pride and emotion we've seen and heard here tonight.

As a Bowdoin graduate, I know in my own heart what makes our college so special, but I still marvel at what's at work here.

I marvel at the power of a proud, yet humble place that has produced so many leaders and citizens of the world.

I marvel at the power of a college that year in and year out draws so many talented students to Brunswick from across America and the world.

I marvel at a college that has consistently attracted such an outstanding faculty — women and men devoted to teaching our students in our liberal arts tradition and faculty who are accomplished scholars, researchers, and artists.

I marvel at a college with such a dedicated staff, including coaches, librarians, administrators, facilities and dining folks, who are so committed to our core mission and make Bowdoin the special community that it is.

And, I marvel at the loyalty and commitment of Bowdoin alumni, parents and friends.

Bowdoin creates these strong and lasting connections. Why is that? What's so special about our college in Maine?

Part of it is longevity. As Geoff Canada reminded us tonight, we've been doing what we do for a very long time — about as long as America has existed.

Part of it is Maine and the Atlantic coast. For all of us who live or who have lived there — even for four short years as students — we know Maine as a beautiful and rugged place with genuine people who feel their connection to this distinct and certain way of life.

Part of it is the genuine majesty and beauty of our campus. To stand on the elegant yet vibrant Bowdoin quadrangle is to bond with generations of Bowdoin past and be part of its present and future.

Part of it is simply because college is, at its best, a remarkable time of wonder and growth; a series of experiences and periods of enlightenment that open our eyes and teach us about what's possible for our own lives and for the world — experiences in the classroom, the theater, the playing fields, the residence halls.

And, it is the Bowdoin community — a community that creates lasting friendship among the Bowdoin family.

Every college — certainly every college as historic as Bowdoin — has its traditions. They have their touchstones and their statements of mission and purpose.

Our first president, Joseph McKeen reminded us that education is not to be used for private advantage, but rather in service to the Common Good. That is a statement about Bowdoin — a canon — that, at its core, promotes community.

We come to Bowdoin not to perpetuate privilege or simply to gain material advantage. We come to Bowdoin for higher purposes, and our history and our present are replete with examples of men and women who have used their powers of reasoning, analysis, and leadership in service to their communities in ways that make us proud. We come to Bowdoin to create opportunity — we come to enable the immense potential of students, faculty and staff to enhance knowledge and for the good of our society.

McKeen's ideal is a challenge to us all. No one passes through four years at Bowdoin without hearing the call. No one can earn a Bowdoin diploma without understanding that our college has high expectations for its graduates. This is one of our great and enduring strengths and one that must be preserved.

We speak at Bowdoin with certainty and with pride about the liberal arts and about why we believe so strongly in this model of education at a time when the world can be an especially threatening and intolerant place and a place that early on demands specialization and narrowed focus.

We know the value of the liberal arts tradition and we know what it means to be so educated. And, it is education and learning in the liberal arts tradition that is our first and most important calling. We know that we prepare our students best when we expose them to a range of ideas, disciplines, and cultures that will enable them to respond in creative and sophisticated ways to their changing and interconnected environments, both for their own benefit and for the benefit of society. In the process, our students gain an invaluable confidence in their ability to meet new challenges throughout their lives.

We know that "liberal" in the liberal arts comes from the Latin, liber, meaning "free."

Simply put, what Bowdoin offers and what you help us advance is freedom — freedom of thought, freedom of inquiry, freedom of reflection, and the freedom to pursue one's passions and to grow.

At Bowdoin, we believe that our mission includes the education of a person for a lifetime of learning. In so doing, we provide a fundamental freedom: the freedom to develop one's mind without the constraints of ignorance or self-doubt.

Look around you. Look at some of the people in this hall — these "leaders in all walks of life."

Some earned their Bowdoin degrees years ago. Others are still our students.

Consider the words and deeds of the men and women you've seen on these screens tonight. As you do, you will be reminded that we are an extraordinary college with ambition and a strong sense of itself. You will be reminded that our graduates are confident men and women doing important things in their communities. You will also be reminded that in addition to possessing a confidence gained through education and experience, Bowdoin graduates also possess a kind of fearlessness...a fearlessness to take chances, to explore new ideas and new solutions, and to lead.

Imagine a society without fearless people who know these freedoms...people without self-assurance, confidence, or the ability to meet complex challenges.

Our College is not only important to us. It is important to our society. It is a national treasure and one worthy of our support and the support of everyone who understands and appreciates the value of a liberal arts education focused squarely on producing principled leaders for America and the world. We may be a modest place, in keeping with our New England and Maine roots, but make no mistake: Bowdoin is among the best colleges in America — in my own view, it can be the very best.

Now...capital campaigns like the one we launch tonight are certainly about raising money, and that's important. But this campaign is also an opportunity for each of us to reconnect with Bowdoin, to tell our stories, and to educate others about our college — to reinforce bonds and, in some cases, to refresh the enthusiasm for Bowdoin that those of us in this room feel so deeply.

This is a moment for renewal; for a recommitment by each of us to the sense of purpose set forth by McKeen, to the standards of courage, dignity, and service exemplified by Chamberlain, and to the meaning of Hyde's offer published exactly 100 years ago:

To be at home in all lands and all ages;
To count Nature a familiar acquaintance,
And Art an intimate friend;
To gain a standard for the appreciation of others' work
And the criticism of your own;
To carry the keys of the world's library in your pocket,
And feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake;
To make hosts of friends...
Who are to be leaders in all walks of life;
To lose yourself in generous enthusiasms
And cooperate with others for common ends —
This is the offer of the college for the best four years of your life.

The best four years of your life.

This closing line from Hyde's "Offer of the College" means so much to all of us, yet what we feel about Bowdoin goes well beyond the short time we spent in college. We know what Hyde meant, but we also know that the best years aren't over at age 21 or 22. As I often say to our seniors, life after Bowdoin is great too. These four years of college are the foundation years. The four years at Bowdoin are the years that make us who we are.

The fact is that we never really leave Bowdoin. Oh, we might go far from Brunswick. Our careers and our families may take us across the country or around the world, but those "best years" stay with us always.

It is this connection that makes Hyde's words so memorable and so poignant.

We can see the quad. We can smell the pines. We remember our mentors and our friends...how they stood by us when we failed and encouraged us to succeed on that glorious Bowdoin campus.

We are now stewards of that singular experience and it is our responsibility to work together with pride and with confidence to ensure that Bowdoin and what it has always offered remains the same kind of experience and opportunity for others that it has been for each of us.

Young men and women from all across America and around the world dream of being able to spend four years at Bowdoin and to join our community. It is our responsibility to make those dreams a reality for every worthy student and to advance the vision of everyone who cares so deeply about our college.

On behalf of a grateful college, thank you for coming tonight, and thank you for all you do for Bowdoin.—President Barry Mills