Published May 22, 2023 by Bowdoin News

Bowdoin to Award 478 Degrees at 218th Commencement on Saturday, May 27

Bowdoin will hold its 218th Commencement ceremony at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, May 27, 2023, and confer bachelor of arts degrees on 478 graduates.
Graduating seniors toss mortar boards in the air.

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 478 graduates, forty-two are from Maine. Forty-two states as well as the District of Columbia and Guam are represented, including Massachusetts with eighty-six students, New York with fifty-two, California with forty, and Connecticut with twenty-five. 

Thirty-three graduating seniors hail from outside the US; twenty-eight countries and territories have citizens graduating from Bowdoin.

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 1916.

This year’s Commencement speakers are Ethan McLear '23 and Ayana Opong-Nyantekyi '23.

Other participants include Olympic gold medalist and trustee Joan Benoit Samuelson ’79, who will deliver greetings from the State of Maine, and Oliver Goodrich, director of the Rachel Lord Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, who will deliver the invocation, and class president Cheng Xing ’23.

Honorary Degrees

During Commencement, Bowdoin will award honorary doctorates  former trustee and board chair Stephen F. Gormley '72, P'06, P'09, P'11; fifteenth president of Bowdoin College, Clayton S. Rose; curator and cultural educator Navarana K’avigak’ Sørensen; former trustee and board chair Robert F. White '77, P'15; and Janet Yang, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and an Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning film and television producer.

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.



While honorary degree recipients do not give speeches at the Commencement ceremony, two will deliver talks, which will be streamed live.

Friday, May 26

  • A conversation with Robert F. White ’77, P’15, moderated by Andrew Rudalevige, Bowdoin’s Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of Government.
    Kanbar Auditorium, Studzinski Recital Hall, 2:30 p.m.

  • Janet Yang, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president and an Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning film and television producer, will deliver the keynote address at Baccalaureate.
    Sidney J. Watson Arena, 4:30 p.m.