New Chairs to Honor Distinguished Black Graduates (September 14, 2021)

To the Bowdoin community,

I am excited to announce the creation of four new endowed faculty professorships that honor distinguished Black graduates of our College. They will be used to bring new faculty to Bowdoin who will focus on the interdisciplinary study of race, racism, and racial justice.

Through incredibly generous and anonymous gifts, these new professorships will benefit the College in several critical ways, including with fresh and exciting intellectual and curricular insights and experiences and by providing role models and mentors for junior faculty and our students. This effort will also play an important part in further attracting and retaining great teacher/scholars, in particular those of color.

The spendable income from an endowed professorship underwrites what Bowdoin provides to a faculty member, including compensation, research and teaching support, and sabbatical leaves. Because of their substantial impact and the significant gift required to name a chair, they are among the most important gifts that donors can make to Bowdoin.

Our new colleagues will engage in and catalyze interdisciplinary scholarship on issues of race, racism, and racial justice and enhance our students’ understanding of these issues as we prepare them to make change and to lead in the world.

The four new chairs will be named in memory of:

Matthew D. Branche ’49, MD, overseer emeritus, the first Black student to serve as class president at Bowdoin and to be pledged by a chapter of a national fraternity with a membership policy of racial exclusion.

Iris W. Davis ’78, a student leader in the early days of coeducation at Bowdoin, an outstanding athlete, trustee of the College, environmental scientist, and policy leader in Massachusetts.

Rasuli Lewis ’73, a founder and leader—with Geoffrey Canada ’74, H’07 and current Bowdoin Trustee George Khaldun ’73—of the Harlem Children’s Zone, and one of the creators of the Peace March and a leader of the Peacemakers program.

E. Frederic Morrow ’30, H’70, the first Black person to hold an executive position in the White House and a civil rights advocate, author, and business leader.

I am thrilled that we are able to honor these remarkable Bowdoin alumni in this special way, and I look forward to recognizing, in this and other ways, the generosity, impact on Bowdoin, and accomplishments of others in our history and in our community, including those who identify as Asian, Latinx, and Indigenous.

As you know, the From Here campaign that we launched nineteen months ago had as a critical goal increasing the number of our endowed professorships.I am delighted to report that our efforts have been successful, as we can see from today’s announcement, and I will have more to say about this important goal before too long.

I know that every member of our community joins me in thanking the extraordinary individuals and families who are making these chairs possible through their remarkable generosity and commitment to Bowdoin.

All the best, 

Clayton