1981, Initial Gift: Irma and William H. Thalheimer '27, deeded their coastal property—118 acres with 2.5 miles of shoreline—to Bowdoin College. Five miles of trails encourage visitors to experience its beauty and develop an appreciation for its natural and cultural history. As you walk the trails, your footsteps trace the storied history of the land's previous occupants: the indigenous inhabitants; colonist Joseph Orr, for whom the island was named; the Wyers and the Hansons, New England farming families; the Winnewisser brothers; and the Thalheimers, who for the second half of the twentieth century enjoyed its beauty during retirement.

1995, Coastal Studies Center is launched: A $2.1 million dollar gift from L.L. Bean Chairman Leon Gorman ’56, H’83 and Lisa Gorman made it possible for Bowdoin to move forward on developing the property for academic use. Three important components were developed—either renovated or built from the ground up. The Thalheimer’s farmhouse was renovated as a meeting space, and an upstairs apartment was added for summer stays. A solar-powered terrestrial lab was built in a quiet location on the Long Cove side of the property, offering an “off-grid” space for field-oriented courses and retreats. On the Harpswell Sound side, a marine laboratory with flowing seawater was added, allowing the culture of marine organisms and advanced experimentation.

2006, Research Pier is added: A gift from Geoffrey C. Rusack ’78, P’13 and Alison Wrigley Rusack P’13, coupled with support from the National Science Foundation, built the research pier. This forty-meter pier and floating dock system is the nexus of science and recreational activities. Home to our boat fleets in the summer, and a launching point for research trips, sailing practices, and collegiate regattas. The research pier provides high quality seawater to the marine lab year-round.

2014, Sailing Team arrives: With the completion of the 1,500-square-foot Leighton Sailing Center and new floating dock system accommodating twenty-four boats, the Sailing Team moves from Bethel Point to a new home on Harpswell Sound. The sailing center is dedicated in honor of Charles M. Leighton ’57.

2017,  Schiller Family gift: A new phase of development is launched when Phil and Kim Schiller P’17 make a generous $10 million gift to build a new dry laboratory building and residential housing/meeting space. The center is renamed the Schiller Coastal Studies Center (SCSC) in their honor.

Renovation and improvements continue: In the last five years, the SCSC has added new boats, completed a major marine lab renovation, and added a new experimental seawater laboratory funded by the National Science Foundation. These improvements are fundamental in supporting innovative new programs like the Bowdoin Marine Science Semester. The combination of these improvements along with our ideal location in the Gulf of Maine are sparking collaboration and attracting outside researchers working to understand how climate change is impacting coastal communities and ecosystems, and to provide solutions to mitigate the impacts of environmental change.

What We Offer

The Schiller Coastal Studies Center is a resource available to all members of the Bowdoin community, whether it's formal academic programming in the arts, humanities, and sciences, or recreational use by students, staff, and the broader Maine community. 

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