Andrew Rudisill Vinton
Why did you come to Bowdoin?
I was born right up the street at Park View Hospital and lived in Damariscotta, but when I was five we moved to Utah. It was always in the back of my head that I wanted to come back here. When my senior year rolled around and the college question came up, my list of criteria pointed to a relatively small college with a Division I ski team. That gave me a list of around 10 pretty good schools. When I did my college tour of those schools something just felt irrevocably out of place. Maybe it was because I was born around here, or that I liked the ski coach more, or that I sat in on better classes, but Bowdoin just felt like it fit. On a quick aside: it also helped that my brother went here and his friends threw a party when I visited.
Why did you decide on that major?
Everyone in my family has been an English major. That said, when I started here I was pretty certain that I was going to be the Vinton to buck that trend. I took some sociology, a little philosophy, I even took Economics 101, but by the spring semester of my sophomore year I had taken a few courses that showed me where I was really supposed to be. Then I threw in the Government portion as an act of rebellion—a small act of defiance to teach my family a lesson (I don’t really know what that lesson was). But seriously, these are just two good departments with great professors and interesting material. Every time that the course packet for the next semester comes out I find that there are enough courses in English and Government to fill two schedules.
What's the best class you've ever taken at Bowdoin?
My sophomore year I took a course on John Milton with Professor Ann Kibbie. This was probably the class that sealed the deal for me becoming an English major. It wasn’t just that I liked the material or that I felt like I was on the same wavelength with the professor, but more that it was the first time that I could remember being that excited about the work, the reading, and the ideas. When you get that much excitement out of reading Areopagitica you can’t help but feel like you’ve been initiated to something.
What extracurricular activities do you participate in?
I was on the Alpine Ski Team for my first and second years. I had grown up racing and it had become one of the things I defined myself by. That’s why the decision to quit and focus on school was so difficult. I also am a part of Brunswick’s charter of “Big Brother’s, Big Sisters.” They tell me that it’s a good experience for these kids but I take a lot from it myself. Even when I’m loaded with papers and reading, meeting with my “little” is the best break I can have. Although some people wouldn’t view it as an “extracurricular activity,” I’m also involved in the Bowdoin Bowling League. I think that when you take it as serious as my team and I do, it ceases to be a mere social gathering.
What's your best Bowdoin memory?
Hands down, easily, by far the greatest thing to happen to me was when my team took the Bowling League championship last year. We had been to the finals our first two years and finally broke the curse. It validated all the after-hours practicing we had been doing and proved that team spirit does have a place in bowling alleys. Unfortunately, one of our teammates missed the championship game and another missed the awards because he was on the phone with his mom. I guess that means that they wouldn’t cite the championship as the momentous highlight of their Bowdoin careers.
What's your strangest or funniest experience while at Bowdoin?
I’m not good at immediate recall so I’ll go with something recent. My friend and I have a radio show on WBOR and the byline on it says, “Nouveau Post-Mondale Minneapolis Underground: In the mid-80’s a certain sentiment fell over Minneapolis like a blanket of polluted snow. What we do is make tangible what has thus far been unarticulated.” I got a kick out of that but I guess most of my humor is for my own entertainment. Kind of like the segment we do on the show called “The Ultra-Mundane.” This is the part where my brother calls from work and we talk about the mundane details of his life, i.e. 401k plans, his computer network’s technician, even the “check engine” light in his car.
Have you done any independent study/honors projects?
I did an independent study with Professor Kibbie during the fall of my junior year. At the heart of it was Norman Mailer’s nonfiction novel called The Executioner’s Song. I wanted to look at the complications and implications of putting the terms “nonfiction” and “novel” together. Every page of the book seemed to be complicated and compounded by the fact that it was an attempt to create a narrative structure within events that actually took place. We started out with really no limits on where it would go or what form it would take, so it was up to me to find out what parts of it really interested me. I ended up focusing on the impact of the author on what was supposed to be a “true” story.
What are your plans for after graduation?
For the last four summers I’ve worked as a river guide in southern Utah. I’ll be heading back there directly after graduation. It has been a great experience and an amazing counter to my time here at Bowdoin—definitely two different worlds. We only do multi-day trips as well, which means that each week I get to know another group of people in a pretty intimate way. After that I’m going to be a deck hand on a research vessel. From October to March I’m going to be coiling the rope, swabbing the deck, and dropping the anchor. It’s a job that I got through a guest I took down the river last year. After that I really don’t have what you would call a plan, as such. I’m winging it really, at least until I decide whether or not I want to go to grad school.
Is there anything else about Bowdoin or your experiences here that you would want prospective students to know?
I think a lot of people view a Bowdoin education as a means to something else—like a gateway to their future lives. I don’t disagree; Bowdoin does provide that. But I think it’s also good to look at the Bowdoin experience (or any liberal arts experience for that matter) as something more inclusive: an education in and of itself.
Story posted on November 04, 2003
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