Curtis Bateman '05

Curtis Bateman '05

Hometown: Auburn, Maine
Major: Classics (with a concentration in Archaeology)

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
I originally thought I'd go out of state somewhere, and I didn't want to go to Bowdoin in particular because it was close [to where I live] and I had driven by it so many times. But I had never actually been on campus until my senior year in high school. When I finally came on campus, I stood on the quad - I had never really seen it before - and I looked around, and I turned to my parents and said, "I have to come here." I looked around at other schools, and they were nice, but I didn't feel a certain something. The first day I was here I had to come.

But I slowly began to realize that it has one of the best archaeology programs on the East Coast for undergraduate schools. The museum is great - it was the first college museum built in America. I knew as a senior in high school that [the museum] would be a good asset because there would be a lot of opportunities to study archaeology if they had the actual stuff there.

How did you decide on your major?
I've wanted to be an archaeology major since I was six or seven years old. I saw Indiana Jones for the first time in kindergarten, and I fell in love. In grade school, whenever we had to write creative stories, I always did Indiana Jones. I was always Indy for Halloween. And then in high school, I always loved the ancient history courses - we didn't have that many, but the ones we did have I was thrilled about. And when college came I said, "Now I can actually get a major in archaeology." So basically, Indiana Jones is the reason why.

Ever since I was little, I've wanted to study archaeology, and it is fascinating - it hasn't gotten boring at all. You're always learning new stuff. There are so many ancient cultures. The more I study it, the more I appreciate it. Seeing how things a thousand or two thousand or three thousand years ago still have effects today - that's what amazes me. All these people have done so much work thousands of years ago and archaeology gives it that sense of purpose.

Do you have any special talents?
Before senior year in high school, I went to a speech camp, and I told my coach that I wanted to do Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the first Star Wars movie, because I loved it so much, and I do some of the voices pretty well. So we took the 180-page script and condensed it to eight pages - we took a two and a half hour film and condensed that to ten minutes. So I did 16 different scenes, on five planets, in 22 voices - and each one was very distinct. I won every speech tournament in Maine and I got to go to the national competition in New York City. I finished in the top 100 in the country.

When I came to Bowdoin, I went on a Pre-Orientation trip, and as an icebreaker, our trip leader asked, "Anyone have any talents?" So I said, "Yeah, I can do a lot of voices." Even though Star Wars is kind of nerdy sometimes, when people hear Jar Jar Binks or Yoda or Darth Vader, they get lit up. Their inner sci-fi being comes out. So I entertained my little group and my troupe leader said, "We're going to bring you to all the other groups." So I said, "Sure!" We went around to about four other groups and they had me sit in front of them and I did voices. People would shout out names of people they wanted to hear, and by the end, Pete Durning ['05], who's one of my best friends now, he literally thought I was a hired entertainer, not a student.

What extracurriculars do you participate in?
I'm a member of the Bowdoin College Democrats. I'm not an officer, so I'm not heavily involved, but I'm pretty involved. We went to go see John Edwards speak, and we're helping out, volunteering, calling people, and for the election we [drove] people to the polls.

I'm in Masque and Gown, the drama group. I've been in three one-acts. I love one-acts because it's a small cast and you can really get into your role. There's not a lot of pressure, and the audience really appreciates it. It's not an overblown thing, it's just three or four people on stage. I really enjoy that and I've made some good friends through drama.

I'm also a member of the Young Alumni Leadership Program (YALP) and the
Recycling Club (which you may not be familiar with, since we like to keep it pretty secret).

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
Well, I'm a huge Star Wars fanatic. When I came here, a lot of my classmates knew about it, but some of them didn't really know about it, like the real in-depth story. And some of them had never seen the movie. So my whole freshman quad came together, and we watched the movies because we all appreciated them. That was a common thread [among us], that we were all fans. I don't know all the technical stuff, but I love the archaeology behind it - the myths and the history behind it.

I also organized trips for us Ladd House members and our affiliates to see The Two Towers, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions and Return of the King. Several of us from Ladd would go to the theater about two hours early and stand in line. We'd even bring food since we'd be there for so long - we even brought UNO cards to pass the time! Once in the theater, we'd take up about two rows. [Those trips] were great times and they were all topped off with Return of the King. For the last hour of that movie I was crying like I had never cried before. The movie was so beautiful! I even screamed out loud when Aragon rushed the field with the Army of the Dead, and everyone screamed with me. I was in such a sad shape afterwards that my friend Pete had to drive my car - I just couldn't take it. Those were the best times, because we all came together to enjoy something that was part of history, that was epic, and that we all truly appreciated.

I've had a blast here, and it's hard to pinpoint a favorite memory.

What's been your favorite class at Bowdoin?
My favorite class was Pagans and Christians taught by Professor James Higgenbotham [of the Classics Department], who's the best professor on campus. The way Higgenbotham teaches, it's a lecture, there are slides behind him, and every five minutes, he'll change the slide and he'll talk about it. All he does is talk about it. You never ask questions - even though he wants you to, he loves it - because you don't want to interrupt him. The way he says his lecture is like a story - it's beautiful, and sometimes you just forget to write things down. You just drop everything and you look at him and listen. He's the most patient man I've ever met. He's so smart, he knows every language. He knows how to joke and how to make archaeology funny, and that's why his classes are always full. There's never an empty seat. It's still a fact that one third of each graduating class has taken one of his courses. He makes you want to study, he makes you want to learn. Pagans and Christians - that was the height of Rome, so that was my passion, we studied all the best stuff of the period.

What are your plans after graduation?
Well, I took my GREs, and I've sent out a lot of letters to graduate schools that offer programs in archaeology, so I still want to keep up with it. There's not many career paths for an archaeologist - there's being a professor, doing government work (as an engineering consultant), or working at museums, and I think museums is where I want to be.

I love getting in front of crowds and I love class lessons and presentations, so professorship may be something I'd be interested in, but with a museum, you can prepare an exhibit and you can make it accessible to an audience. You love the subject so much that you want so many people to enjoy it, too, so you want to present it in a way that's enjoyable. A career in museums, maybe curating, dealing with the actual objects all the time, that kind of fits my interest. I'll bring a new edge to it, bring some humor to it.

Is there anything else about Bowdoin or your experiences here that you'd like prospective students to know?
Get involved. Those two words, they can do so much for you. Do intramural sports or get involved in drama or a political group or the audiovisual club or whatever fits your interest. Go to coffeehouses and read stories and write poems, and if you can play an instrument, write a song or something. There are so many opportunities every weekend where Bowdoin loves to come together and celebrate any talent people have. Just come with your gifts, and we'll appreciate you. Getting involved gets you out of your room and out of the classroom. It introduces you to so many different people. College is your chance to diversify yourself and meet other people from other parts of the country and the world - the only way to do that really is to get involved.

Story posted on November 03, 2004

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