Bucky Owen '59 to Receive 2024 Common Good Award

By Bowdoin News
A lifelong advocate and champion of conservation, Ray "Bucky" Owen, a member of the Class of 1959, has worked to ensure productive management of Maine's inland fisheries and the preservation of the state's natural resources.

For his efforts to support ecologicial preservation across the state, Owen has been selected by the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees to receive the 2024 Common Good Award.

After majoring in biology at Bowdoin, Owen earned a PhD in ecology at the University of Illinois and spent more than thirty years as a professor at the University of Maine's flagship campus in Orono, during which he was chair of the wildlife department for a decade.

Bucky Owen
Bucky Owen '59

Owen served as commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, where he initiated and oversaw the Quality Fishing Initiative, a program that made sweeping changes to how Maine's wild native brook trout were managed.

Many of these changes were cultural and, as a result, entailed hard management decisions. The initiative featured bag limits and higher length limits and involved restrictions on about four hundred wild brook trout ponds at its inception.

Furthermore, the measure provided time for the fishery to stabilize and become healthy. Three decades after the fact, fish quality and the overall angling experience has earned Maine a reputation as a top destination for sport trophy fishing. This would not be the case but for Owen's foresight and dedication.

He was chairman of the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission, a delegate to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, and a key player (and philanthropist, along with his wife, Sue) in the Penobscot River Restoration Project to remove dams and restore eleven species of migratory fish to the waters of the Penobscot. Owen worked closely with the Penobscot Nation on this project.

He was awarded the prestigious Lee Wulff Award from the Atlantic Salmon Federation in 2009. Owen has also served as chair of the Maine Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and chair of the Orono Land Trust, as well as a volunteer for several other conservation-oriented organizations. (Fun fact: Bucky and Sue are partly responsible for the sign at the summit of Katahdin­—helping to carry it up the mountain in the 1970s.)

"With infectious enthusiasm, Bucky rolled up his sleeves and devoted himself to the preservation of natural resources," one of his former graduate students (who went on to become an ecology professor) commented. "He loves people and the wilderness and recognizes that preservation of one requires engagement of the other," he added.

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 and Alumni Council awards will be presented Saturday, June 1, 2024, during Reunion Convocation.

Registration for Reunion Weekend 2024 (May 30–June 2) begins in March.