Published May 15, 2019 by Bowdoin College

Bowdoin to Award 472 Degrees at 214th Commencement May 25

Bowdoin will hold its 214th Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 25, 2019, and confer bachelor of arts degrees on 472 graduates.

President Clayton S. Rose will preside over Commencement and award degrees on the terrace of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art on the Quad.

In the event of very severe weather, Commencement will be held in Sidney J. Watson Arena.

Of the 472 graduates, 44 are from Maine.

Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are represented, including Massachusetts with 72 students, New York with 60, California with 36 and Connecticut with 34.

Thirty-three graduates are international students, representing 19 countries and territories.

Commencement Speakers

Since 1806, Bowdoin has given the honor of speaking at commencement to graduating seniors.

Until 1877 every graduate had a speaking part. The custom of selecting student commencement speakers through competition began in the 1880s.

Past speakers have included poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1825, House Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed 1860, Arctic explorer Robert E. Peary 1877, and biologist and researcher Alfred Kinsey ’16.

Julia O’Rourke and Anu Asaolu are this year’s Commencement speakers.

Other participants include graduating senior and Portland native Mohamed Nur, who will deliver greetings from the State of Maine, and Eduardo PazosBowdoin’s director of religious and spiritual life, who will deliver the invocation.

During Commencement, Bowdoin will award honorary doctorates to social historian Earl Lewis, mammalian molecular geneticist Nadia A. Rosenthal, philanthropist Paul M. Ruddock, and Bowdoin College Trustee Emeritus Sheldon M. Stone ’74.

Commencement History

Bowdoin College was chartered in 1794, and held its first commencement ceremony in 1806 in the second meetinghouse of First Parish Church across the street from the College.

There were seven graduates in the Class of 1806.

The following year saw the smallest graduating class in the College’s history, with just three members in the Class of 1807.

The best-known class was the Class of 1825.

In addition to Longfellow, the class included writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.

In 1875, on the day before Commencement at the fiftieth reunion of the class, Longfellow recited his poem “Morituri Salutamus,” an elegiac reflection on youth and age.

Other notable Bowdoin graduates include President Franklin Pierce 1824, African-American newspaper editor John Brown Russwurm 1826, Civil War hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain 1852, former U.S. Senator and architect of the Ireland peace accord George Mitchell ’54, and former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen ’62.


While the honorary degree recipients will not give speeches at the Commencement ceremony, they will participate in a variety of talks scheduled Friday, May 24.

A conversation with Nadia A. Rosenthal, geneticist and scientific director at the Jackson Laboratory for Mammalian Genetics, Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center, 1:30 p.m.–2:15 p.m.

A conversation with Sir Paul M. Ruddock, philanthropist and supporter of the arts, Kanbar Auditorium, Studzinski Recital Hall, 2:30 p.m.–3:15 p.m.

Earl Lewis, social historian and former president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will deliver the keynote address at Baccalaureate, Sidney J. Watson Arena, 4:30 p.m.