Friday, January 4, 2013
I am honored to speak today as president of Bowdoin College in memory of Tim Warren, a passionately devoted son of our College.
Tim arrived at Bowdoin in the fall of 1941 but didn’t stay long initially. He transferred to Harvard in 1942 and was soon drafted into the Army Medical Corps at the height of World War II. He served in the Philippines and in Japan, and after the war, he had the good sense to return to Bowdoin, where, in the fall of 1946, he graduated as a member of the Class of 1945 with a degree in French.
Tim’s service to our College is well documented and legendary around Brunswick. He was a class agent, a member of the Alumni Council, and a diligent and successful fundraiser. He served on the Board of Overseers, assisted students as a career counselor, and interviewed candidates for admission. In 1992 he was honored with our Alumni Service Award, and two years later he was with us to celebrate Bowdoin’s Bicentennial, an event he helped to plan.
This is an impressive record of volunteer service by a busy and accomplished leader, and it demonstrated a true dedication to his College and to higher education. But, a mere listing of these achievements does not adequately reflect what Bowdoin meant to Tim and what Tim meant to Bowdoin.
In all ways, Tim Warren was the epitome of a liberal arts college educated citizen deeply committed to serving the common good. But he didn’t represent the ideals of just any liberal arts college. Tim lived a life that is the essence of a Bowdoin education. His was a life surrounded by books and learning—the very picture of a man of letters. Tim was a person committed to ideas, to principles, to imagination, to reflection and judgment—and to tolerance. He was proud of his family, his work, and his beliefs, but he was not a man of ego. As I describe Tim, I am describing what it means to be a Bowdoin person.
Tim not only devoted much of his life to his College, he embodied what his College seeks to be, reflected in the lives of important citizens who are life-long learners, leaders in their workplaces and in their communities—people devoted to justice and to keeping an open mind. Tim was certainly a Bowdoin man when he was a student in Brunswick in the 1940s, but he also lived the ideals of a Bowdoin person for his entire life.
As I think about Tim, I think back more than 40 years to the time when I first met him and found myself amazed at how committed this very gracious, elegant man was even then to his College. As a student at Bowdoin in the turbulent late 60s and early 70s, I just couldn’t understand then how someone could believe that their College was so important—so important that he would send all three of his children to our small college in Maine!
I thought about Tim over the years when I was practicing law in New York City, especially when I would receive Bowdoin’s alumni magazine or read an alumni newsletter loved by Tim called “The Whispering Pines.” For me, Tim represented what an alumnus should be and do for Bowdoin—even at a time when I might not have felt so passionately about those connections myself. Later, as I became more involved with Bowdoin, Tim was as a role model for me as I worked to ignite in myself that same commitment to our College.
Many important Bowdoin alumni—both men and women—have talked to me over these past weeks about Tim’s passion for our College and what that meant for them as fellow alumni.
His message about life was to "make it count." A few years back, in an interview for our alumni magazine, Tim offered some advice about life that said a whole lot about his outlook and good sense. He said:
"Find something that moves you, that really motivates you and makes you happy, then do it with everything you've got. Do what you're passionate about; do what you love; don't do what you're expected to do because it fits into the norms of society."
To all of us who knew him, it was clear that one of Tim’s great passions was Bowdoin. Over these past 12 years, during my tenure as president, Tim and Phyllis were always there—at football games, at music events, at lectures—always in the front row at alumni events, often sitting front and center for the barbershop bands playing at our events. Tim’s commitment to Bowdoin—and I have to say to me, personally—was ever present.
As I said earlier, Tim was a man of letters, but he became a man of email. In recent years, he emailed me regularly with questions and comments and encouragement. Here’s a message from September 23, 2011
The Globe today reports that Harvard’s endowment return is less than ours!
On December 7, 2011, when Bowdoin announced a community read in support of tolerance in our community, Tim wrote:
What a classy thing to do with Brunswick.
And Tim was incredibly enthusiastic about the success and work of my wife, Karen, both in Maine and at the Small Business Administration. A message from last January, commenting on Karen's appointment to the Obama cabinet:
Way to go for her! Waiting to see how Mitt takes this.
Then, demonstrating that Tim Warren was a Bowdoin guy filled with good humor, this email recounting what must be an apocryphal story told to him by a fellow alumnus about the early days of co-education at Bowdoin Tim wrote:
“On their first day at Bowdoin, the Dean addressed the students, pointing out some of the rules: ‘The female dormitory will be out-of-bounds for all male students, and the male dormitory to the female students. Anybody caught breaking this rule will be fined $20 the first time.’
The Dean continued: ‘Anybody caught breaking this rule the second time will be fined $60.’
And he concluded with this stern admonition: ‘Being caught a third time will cost you a fine of $180. Are there any questions?’
A male voice from within the crowd in the auditorium was heard asking, ‘How much for a season pass?!’"
With Tim’s passing, we at Bowdoin have lost one of our most enthusiastic Polar Bears—a friend and leader who served as a beacon for what our College should be about. I know Tim was proud of what he achieved for his College, and we are forever grateful for his deeds and his example.
We at Bowdoin stand on the shoulders of those who came before us as we work to create an even better College for the future, while remaining steadfastly committed to the valuable principles of our past. We are proud to say that our future is strong and resolute, in part because Tim Warren walked among us on the Bowdoin Quad.
Thank you for listening.