Common Good Awards

The Common Good Award honors those alumni who have "demonstrated an extraordinary, profound, and sustained commitment to the common good, in the interest and for the benefit of society, with conspicuous disregard for personal gains in wealth or status."

2022 Linda Nelson '83

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"Linda L. Nelson, distinguished member of the Class of 1983, you have been a singularly powerful advocate for the arts, the nonprofit sector, and the impact that cultural activities can have on communities in the state of Maine. A woman both of ideas and action, you have built an arts venue that is a beacon for your town, island, and region, and your pioneering work at the intersection of the arts and community development has helped transform the cultural landscape of the state.

As a student at Bowdoin, you were a vocal leader of the burgeoning communities of women and LGBTQ students on campus. Your work as a cofounder of the Women’s Resource Center and a member of the Gay Straight Alliance and the Bowdoin Women’s Association, helped make Bowdoin a more welcoming place for your contemporaries and for the generations of women and LGBTQ students who came after you.

In 1999, while both a part-time resident of Stonington, Maine, and an executive of a New York City-based consulting firm, you, your wife, Judith, and two other women began the process of restoring the Stonington Opera House, both as a physical landmark and as a vibrant community hub for arts and culture. You served as founding executive director of Opera House Arts from its founding in 1998, a position you held for seventeen years, and you relocated permanently to Stonington in 2001, becoming increasingly integral to the local community and to the network of arts and nonprofit organizations across the state in the years that followed.

In addition to your work with the Stonington Opera House, you served as a member and later as assistant director of the Maine Arts Commission and as deputy director of Portland Ovations, and you are a cofounder, steering committee member, and interim director of the Cultural Alliance of Maine and vice president and a board member of the Maine Association of Nonprofits. These experiences helped you understand and advocate for the ways in which the arts can bring people together and lift communities. You also served those communities in ways outside of the arts, including as a board member for SurvivorSpeakUSA and as a founding member and the current director for the Stonington Economic Development Committee. In addition, you have mentored generations of other Maine women throughout your work in Downeast Maine and beyond, including with the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute, and most recently serving as cochair for the host committee of Leaders in All Walks of Life: Fifty Years of Women at Bowdoin.

The greatest example of the impact of the arts on local communities remains your signature achievement, the restoration of the flourishing Stonington Opera House. More than just a venue for theater, music, film, and other artistic and cultural events, it has been described by residents as “an educational institution,” “an anchor,” and a place that “ties the town together.” As residents often put it, the Opera House is “the island’s living room.”

For all that you have done to bring communities together through the arts and to support the arts, cultural activities, and nonprofit work that improve the lives of Mainers in towns, cities, and rural areas across the state, we are proud to present you with the 2022 Common Good Award. We join your family, classmates, friends, colleagues, and community members in honoring you."

June 4, 2022