Awards honoring outstanding leadership and service to the College will be presented May 31, 2014, during Reunion Convocation. Read about the other award recipients.
Edwin Mah Lee, a member of the Class of 1974 and San Francisco’s first Asian-American mayor, has been selected by the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees to receive one of three 2014 Common Good Awards.
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.
The son of poor working class Chinese immigrants from Seattle who spoke Cantonese, Lee graduated from Bowdoin — and then the University of California, Berkeley School of Law — to become an extraordinary public servant in San Francisco.
Lee served as an advocate for affordable housing and the rights of immigrants and renters, an investigator for San Francisco’s Whistle Blower Ordinance, deputy director of employee relations and later as the executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
In the years that followed, Lee also headed up the city’s public works department, and served as City Administrator.
In January 2011, San Francisco’s board of supervisors voted for Lee to be interim mayor, succeeding Gavin Newsom, who had been elected California’s lieutenant governor, and in November of that year was elected to the seat.
As Mayor, Lee has kept his focus on economic development and job creation, taking responsibility for building San Francisco’s future, including investment in infrastructure, housing and transportation, making the city more affordable, and helping working families stay in San Francisco.
Lee says his priorities also include making city government more responsive, efficient and accountable.
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 Awards will be presented Saturday, May 31, 2014, during Reunion Convocation.