by Bowdoin News

Daniel B. Spears ’81, P’14 to Receive 2023 Common Good Award

An advocate who opened a world of life-changing educational opportunities to inner-city youth, Daniel B. Spears, a member of the Class of 1981, encouraged generations of students in Baltimore to dream of experiencing a transformational education beyond the confines of their local area, and worked to make those dreams a reality.
Daniel Spears '81, P'14
Daniel Spears '81, P'14

For his efforts to improve and support the communities he serves, Spears has been selected by the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees to receive the 2023 Common Good Award.

Spears cofounded the nonprofit Bowdoin Bound with the goal of raising the educational sights of inner-city Baltimore students, urging them to aspire to attend colleges like Bowdoin, and motivating them to continue their hard work in the classroom. He then made opportunities attainable for these deserving students, bringing groups to visit Bowdoin’s campus in the summer, matching students with college mentors, and helping prepare students to navigate both the admissions and financial aid processes. In so doing, he provided a springboard for hundreds of young people to change the trajectory of their educational experiences and their post-college lives.

Spears’s own personal and professional life in service to the common good was nurtured at Bowdoin, where he simultaneously followed his passions for academics, athletics, and the arts. A cum laude graduate in art history, he was also on the football and indoor and outdoor track teams, a host of radio shows on WBOR, where he was also music director, and a recipient of the Andrew Allison Haldane Cup for “outstanding qualities of leadership and character.”

Spears said that “Bowdoin taught me to embrace the concept of ‘to serve the common good,’” and he has credited his cocurricular work at WBOR with propelling him into a career in the music industry, where he currently serves as vice president for industry relations and licensing at Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). In that role, he works to protect the rights of individual songwriters and educates businesses on the importance of respecting intellectual property and fairly compensating the creators of music.

Beyond his work at Bowdoin Bound and BMI, Spears has managed to serve the College in several critical volunteer roles throughout the years, not only as a BASIC volunteer but as national chair of the program for six years, as well as a member of his class Reunion Committee, and a CXD Sophomore Bootcamp volunteer, among other roles. In 2011, Spears was recognized for “varied and distinguished service to Bowdoin” with the Polar Bear Award from the Alumni Council. Spears and classmates David Barnes ’81, John Hickling ’81, and Peter Larcom ’81 began travelling together in 1999 to remote parts of the world; during their visits they would bring pens and notebooks to local schools. In 2017, they formalized that effort into Tools for Schools Partnership, a nonprofit that purchases supplies for schools in third-world countries.

Established in 1994 on the occasion of the Bowdoin College Bicentennial, the Common Good Award honors those alumni who have demonstrated an extraordinary, profound, and sustained commitment to the common good, in the interest of society, with conspicuous disregard for personal gain in wealth or status.

Common Good Award recipients personify the idea of the common good as set forth by Bowdoin’s first president, Joseph McKeen. In his inaugural address on September 2, 1802, McKeen reminded his audience, “It ought always to be remembered that literary institutions are founded and endowed for the common good and not for the private advantage of those who resort to them for education. It is not that they may be able to pass through life in an easy and reputable manner, but that their mental powers may be cultivated and improved for the benefit of society.”

The Common Good Award will be presented Saturday, June 3, 2023, during Reunion Convocation.

Registration for Reunion Weekend 2023 (June 1–4) begins in March.