Bowdoin Then and Now, According to New and Old Timers

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Students gathered in Ladd House to hear about how Bowdoin has changed from the 1970s to today.

In a recent editorial David Treadwell ’64 wrote for The Bowdoin Orient, the alumnus describes his impressions of Bowdoin when he was a student.

“In the early 1960s, Bowdoin had no women students and no women faculty. As to ‘diversity,’ our class of 223 included only two African-Americans, two Asian-Americans and no international students. Gays? Not an issue; no one dared come out. Our class enrolled more students from my high school in Delaware (3) than from the states of Florida, Georgia, California, Oregon, Washington and Texas combined (1). …Tuition was $2,500 a year and the average GPA was 2.3 (C+).”

Intrigued by the picture Treadwell paints of this bygone Bowdoin, the students of Ladd House decided to investigate further. They invited seven representatives from different eras, spanning the 1970s to the 2010s, to speak to students in their living room about Bowdoin through the ages.

Ladd House students laid out old and more recent yearbooks and photographs

Students peruse yearbooks and photographs at Ladd House

The panelists included Shannon Malloy ’11, assistant field hockey coach; Ryan Ricciardi ’00, admissions counselor; Tim Ryan ’98, athletic director; Rick Ganong ’86, senior vice president for development and alumni relations; John Cross ’76, secretary of development and college relations; and Bill Watterson, Bowdoin’s Edward Little Professor of the English Language and Literature, who began teaching here in 1976.

The panelists answered a number of questions posed by the student moderator, starting off with a query about about the changes they’ve seen with the closing of fraternities in 2000. Cross, Ganong, and Ryan, who had all been in fraternities, described the pledging process and recalled some of the pranks pulled off by frat houses.

While Ryan spoke fondly of his fraternity, he also pointed out that “what was different is that it was a little like the wild, wild West. Security and the Brunswick police never entered frat houses. It was not a safe environment at all.”

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Students check out yearbooks from then and now

Ricciardi, who also lived in a fraternity house, was a member of the last class that experienced Greek life. “It changed everything,” she said. She added, however, that the College tried to preserve the best aspects of fraternity life and the best parts of non-fraternity campus life. “It was a neat meeting of the two worlds, combining the best of both to create the social houses,” she said.

Asked to compare a typical student then and now, Ganong joked that in his era, diversity was “a tall white guy and a short white guy.” He said that the increased diversity on campus has come with increased opportunities. “There’s so much more to do on this campus. Back then, everyone went to the fraternities at 5 p.m. and then marched into Dayton Arena at 6:30.”

After discussing matters such as the changes in the caliber of Bowdoin athletes and some of the more questionable antics of fraternities, panelists answered the moderator’s final question: “What brought you back to Bowdoin, or kept you here?”

Watterson: “I have formed many close relationships with Bowdoin undergraduates. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.”

Ganong: “Bowdoin means a tremendous amount to me, to my wife, to one of our kids and to my wife’s father. We have a deep Bowdoin legacy. By coming back, I have an opportunity to give back to a school that gave me so much.”

Cross: “I grew up in the shadow of the college and it’s been a wonderful place. It’s been somewhat like a larger extended family; I like working with alumni, students, faculty. (Cross’s grandfather was Bowdoin’s faculty secretary from 1929 to 1963. Cross’s father graduated from Bowdoin in 1945 and was secretary of development from 1950 to 1990. Cross began working at Bowdoin in 1997.)

Ryan: “I felt really fortunate to be here, and was able to form a lot of great relationships with some really good people — and that continues today, both with people who work here and with students who go here now.”

Malloy: “The people here is what I love the most about Bowdoin. It’s what I talk about when I meet with recruits for hockey.”

Ricciardi: “There’s one story I tell a lot of people about what it means to be part of this community and why it feels like home to me. …I had intended to be a chemistry major so I took my organic chemistry class with Rick Broene. And when I came back here as a professor, [I was at a cocktail party] and I feel a tap on my shoulder, and there was Rick Broene. And he said, ‘Ryan Ricciardi, welcome back to campus!’ And I said, ‘Oh my god, Prof. Broene, you remember me! And he said, ‘You spent a lot of time in my office.’ I think that says a lot about Bowdoin — that I took one class with someone and he remembers me eight years later.”

 

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