During Bowdoin College’s 208th Commencement ceremony, held May 25, 2013, 458 bachelor of arts degrees were awarded to students from 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 14 foreign countries and territories.
President Barry Mills presided over the Commencement ceremony, which began at 10 a.m. inside the Sidney J. Watson Arena. Mills continued his Commencement tradition of speaking about leadership.
“At Bowdoin we understand that leadership requires empathy — at its best it requires a person who understands in their heart and head the issues and problems they seek to solve, and the situations they aim to improve. A Bowdoin leader leaves their ego at the door — it is not the volume of your voice, but the power of your ideas,” Mills said.
He beseeched the graduating class to do a lot of listening, “an much-underrated element of leadership.”
Mills also reminded the students sitting before him to maintain their sense of humor. “As we seek to lead by tackling serious issues and problems, we must also leave room to not take ourselves too seriously. A sense of perspective and irony are essential,” he said.
The president applauded the many accomplishments of the soon-to-be alumni. “We count students among us today who have completed elegant honors projects, played glorious music, created fantastic art, danced with grace and performed magically on the athletic field,” he said.
“We have every confidence and an expectation that they will continue this achievement and this leadership — this principled leadership — into the future, reflecting vividly the principles of service to the common good that we at Bowdoin so proudly represent.” Read the full text of Mills’ speech.
The invocation was delivered by Rev. Robert E. Ives ’69, Bowdoin’s new director of religious and spiritual Life. Maine Sen. Stan J. Gerzofsky delivered the annual greetings from the state. He encouraged the students to engage with politics, in fact, he said they did not have the luxury not to. “Your job, whether you choose a career in medicine, law, the arts or what have you, is to be part of [political] debates, because now, my friends, you are responsible for maintaining our prosperity and taking care of our most vulnerable,” Gerzofsky said, adding, “the tasks my generation failed to solve now fall onto you. Your task is to move the ball down the road. Get it done.”
As has been the tradition since Bowdoin’s first graduation ceremony in 1806, commencement addresses were delivered by graduating seniors. This year’s speakers, chosen through competition, were Hannah Glover ’13 and RaiNesha Miller ’13.
Class of 1868 Prize Winner Hannah Elisabeth Glover ’13
As an earth and oceanographic science major, Glover fittingly spoke about the objects that have consumed her time and attention these past four years — rocks. In her address, “Annals of the Bowdoin World,” Glover started off describing the “wisdom” of rocks.
“They were here long before us and will last long after we’re gone. They stand mute witness to our rampant pillaging and plundering. To them, we are but a passing shadow,” she said.
Glover went on to liken the class of 2013 to metamorphic rocks, which start out as “weak mudstones,” but under pressure, increased temperatures and the addition of volatiles become “spectacular rocks.”
Bowdoin’s seniors, through their four years of college, have been “pushed and pressured and stressed.” Yet, like metamorphic rocks, the members of the class of 2013 are strong.
Plus, Glover added, “they tell the best stories. If there were a rock bar, the metamorphic rocks would be the salty sailors sitting in the darkest corner … spinning long tales of shattered garnets and sheared micas.”
As graduating seniors, however, their stories of formation are far from complete. Leaving Bowdoin behind, they will likely enter “into high pressure, stressful environments.”
But Glover sees potential in the transformations to come. “…We have the opportunity to become the sturdy bedrock for future generations. … We have the strength to rise up, to stand up, to become the Appalachians, the Andes, the Himalayas of the future.” Read the full text of Glover’s address.
Goodwin Commencement Prize Winner RaiNesha L. Miller ’13
RaiNesha Miller, a psychology major and sociology minor from Birmingham, Ala., used her talk “Rising from Fear: The Unyielding Power of Self-Belief” to describe the importance of conquering our fears of failure and overcome our feelings of inadequacy.
Miller credited Bowdoin with providing its students with many of the tools to perform this task.
“Since our first day of campus, we have been encouraged to participate and get involved, or as the Offer of the College states, ‘lose yourself in generous enthusiasms.’ … Each and every day, we have faced up to our fears by being leaders, speaking out in class, forging relationships and striving to better ourselves as students and individuals.”
Saying she had been particularly moved by the words of Audre Lorde, a Caribbean-American writer and activist, Miller shared some of Lorde’s wisdom: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
Miller continued, “You have to believe in yourself if you are to conquer your fears and ease your doubts. Hold onto the belief that you have what it takes to do and be whatever you choose in life. If you do, you will look up one day and realize you can’t even remember what you were afraid of in the first place.” Read the full text of Miller’s address.
Honorary Degree Recipients
Bowdoin awarded six honorary doctorates at the commencement ceremony:
Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State
Jean Arasanayagam, Sri Lankan poet
Philip Conkling, Island Institute founder and president
David Blight, noted American Civil War historian
Rose Marie Bravo, former Burberry CEO
Caroline Lee Herter, trustee emerita and philanthropist
Senior Class Gift
Senior Class President Melody Hahm, of Woodbridge, Conn., announced the establishment of the Class of 2013 Scholarship Fund to help an incoming member of the Class of 2017.
Hahm said that 80 percent of the class had already contributed.
“I feel humbled and inspired to be part of such a generous class that has already found ways to give back before setting foot off campus,” said Hahm.
Music for the ceremony was provided by senior members of the chamber choir, chorus and student a cappella groups, who performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Raise Songs to Bowdoin,” accompanied by pianist Linna Gao ’12.