Bowdoin’s highest-ranking scholars were recognized at the College’s Sarah and James Bowdoin Day exercises Friday, October 25, 2013. Sarah and James Bowdoin scholarships are awarded each fall on the basis of work completed the previous academic year.
The award is given to the 20 percent of all eligible students with the highest grade point average. Book Awards are presented to every Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholar who earned a GPA of 4.00.
The Award bears a replica of the early College bookplate serving to distinguish the James Bowdoin Collection in the library.
Almost 300 students were named Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars this year, with 16 of the scholars earning Book Awards. The Almon Goodwin Prize, presented to a member of Phi Beta Kappa chosen by vote of the Board of Trustees of the College, was awarded to Michelle Ivy Wiener ‘13.
Wiener, a double major in sociology and government and legal studies, and a minor in gender and women’s studies, says she is passionate about social justice work, particularly youth development. At Bowdoin she is co-founder of the group Fostering Female leadership in Youth, which trains Bowdoin students to be mentors to local middle school girls. When the older and younger students get together, they discuss issues facing them as young women and how to grow into leaders. Wiener has co-written the group’s curriculum to touch on issues such as friendship, the social scene, health, identity, communication and goal setting.
Other Phi Beta Kappa members from the Class of 2014 are:
Graham Harper Edwards
Mollie Sarah Henni Friedlander
Diana Fung Shing Lee
Megan Gina Massa
Caroline Peabody Moore
Ellis Marshal Ratner
Madelena Sophia Rizzo
Alisha Jannel Turak
Lucy E. L. Walker
Sarah and James Bowdoin Day speeches are delivered by a highly recognized practitioner in one of the liberal arts disciplines and an outstanding Bowdoin student.
This year’s speakers were Margaret W. Conkey H’12, Professor Emerita of the University of California-Berkeley, and sophomore Haley Spina Miller.
Dr. Conkey — an anthropologist and pioneer in the research of gender in human evolution — has made significant contributions to the understanding of Europe’s prehistoric and hunter-and-gatherer societies. And she is known around the world for her research on Upper Paleolithic art.
In particular, Dr. Conkey has been a strong advocate for the feminist practice of archaeology. She has been centrally involved in bringing a more balanced view to the study and understanding of gender in past human societies, publishing some key works that have encouraged a significant change and expansion of archaeological research around the world. Before taking home her honorary doctorate from Bowdoin, she received her B.A. from Mt Holyoke College, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
In her address, Dr. Conkey spoke about the role of serendipity in discovery. “Stay open,” she repeated the writer George Saunders’ words. “Stay open, forever so open it hurts. And then open up some more, until the day you die.” Conkey continued, “In your scholarship and in your lives, you need eyes all around your head, and above all, you need to have an open space for the unexpected, that serendipitous event or observation, that unanticipated opportunity.”
As a sophomore, Miller hasn’t yet declared her major, but is interested in studying chemistry and religion. At Bowdoin, Haley said she has met many professors who “have completely changed [her] life,” something she didn’t expect coming in. Her professors have altered the way she thinks about the world, she said, as well as shown her what it means to be passionate about a subject — and to care about people. “They inspire me to be a better person and a better scholar,” she said.
In her talk, “2013: Humans in the Cognitive Computer Era,” Miller described what would be lost in a world where computers took over and the need for human intellectuals disappeared. “These things that a scholar possesses do not only make it impossible for computers to replace men, but also makes it necessarily impossible,” she said. “To lose imagination, to lose emotion, to lose mistakes would turn our world into a gray, intellectual wasteland.”
As is his tradition on Sarah and James Bowdoin Day, President Mills offered a brief history lesson of the College.
Mills congratulated the scholars on their academic achievements and encouraged all to be fearless learners, whether that be questioning conventional wisdom or visiting the Museum of Art.
The recognition of James Bowdoin Scholars was begun in 1941 to honor those undergraduates who distinguish themselves by excellence in scholarship and to commemorate the Honorable James Bowdoin III (1752-1811), first patron of the College. James Bowdoin III, who asked that the College be named after his father, was an agriculturist, an art and book collector, and a diplomat who served as Thomas Jefferson’s minister plenipotentiary to Spain from 1804-08. In 1997 by faculty vote the commemorative day and distinction as scholar were changed to recognize both Sarah and James Bowdoin, who were married from 1780 until his death in 1811. Like her husband, Sarah Bowdoin gave many gifts to the College, including most of the Bowdoin family portraits, which were bequeathed to the College upon her death.