Scholars Recognized on Sarah and James Bowdoin Day

Bowdoin’s highest-ranking scholars were recognized at the College’s 2014 Sarah and James Bowdoin Day exercises on Friday, October 31, 2014.

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President Barry Mills presents Book Awards to students during the 2014 Sarah and James Bowdoin Day exercises.

Awarded each fall on the basis of work completed the previous academic year, Sarah and James Bowdoin scholarships are given to the 20 percent of all eligible students with the highest grade point average. Each Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholar who earned a GPA of 4.00 also receives a Book Award, which bears a replica of the early College bookplate found on books in the Library’s James Bowdoin Collection.

In this year’s ceremony, 248 students were named Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars, with 23 of the scholars earning Book Awards. “Today is a recognition that good grades at Bowdoin demonstrate a seriousness of purpose, commitment to learn, subtlety of mind, and tenacity to achieve,” said President Barry Mills. “These students are much more than their grade point averages.”

The annual ceremony includes a guest address delivered by a highly recognized practitioner in one of the liberal arts disciplines, and a student address delivered by an outstanding Bowdoin student. This year’s guest speaker was M. Susan Lozier, Ronie-Richele Garcia-Johnson Professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, whose address was titled “Overturning Assumptions.”

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Susan Lozier and President Mills

Lozier, an eminent physical oceanographer, studies the ocean’s involvement in climate change and climate variability, particularly focusing on large-scale ocean circulation. An adjunct scientist for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Lozier has led and participated in research cruises in the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, and Labrador Sea. Her many accolades include a National Science Foundation Early Career Award and, just this year, the honor of being named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

Lozier is also project lead for an international initiative called OSNAP (Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program). This vast observing system has begun collecting a continuous record of ocean overturning in the subpolar region of the North Atlantic. Shifts in that circulation will affect temperatures and precipitation across whole continents, not to mention the global carbon cycle, so understanding its dynamics in the context of climate change is vital.

Lozier cited this project, among several historical examples, to emphasize the importance of basing our knowledge and understanding on observations rather than assumptions. She also encouraged audience members to apply that principle to their own personal pursuits: “We all make assumptions about ourselves, and not all of those assumptions are grounded in data,” she said. Rather than following a path prescribed by assumptions and expectations, students should take time to carefully observe themselves and determine their own best routes toward their goals.

Student speaker Rachel Nicole Pollinger ’15 gave a speech titled “Contemplating the Unknown,” in which she spoke of the transformative power of pondering open-ended questions. Read the full text of Pollinger’s speech here.

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From left: Matthew Goodrich, Courtney Chuang, Anna Seeler, and Rachel Pollinger

The Almon Goodwin Prize was awarded to seniors Courtney Zin Ming Chuang, Matthew Miles Goodrich, and Anna Louise Seeler, who served as student marshalls for the event. This award is presented to one or more members of Phi Beta Kappa chosen by vote of the Board of Trustees of the College. The other eight Phi Beta Kappa members from the Class of 2015 are Emma Whitney Dickey, Duncan Joseph Flynn, Joshua Michael Friedman, Evan Andrew Horwitz, Ian Alexander Kline, Christine Elisabeth Walder, Camille Elizabeth Wasinger, and Alana Suzanne Weinstein.

Sarah and James Bowdoin Day program

2014 Sarah and James Bowdoin Day program (click to view)

According to annual tradition, President Mills offered a brief history lesson of the Bowdoin family and Sarah and James Bowdoin Day itself. The College began recognizing James Bowdoin Scholars in 1941 to honor undergraduates who distinguish themselves by excellence in scholarship and to commemorate the Honorable James Bowdoin III (1752-1811), the College’s first patron. James Bowdoin III – who asked that the institution be named after his father – was an agriculturist, art and book collector, and diplomat who served as Thomas Jefferson’s minister plenipotentiary to Spain.

By faculty vote in 1997, this commemorative day and scholarly distinction 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 Bowdoin College upon her death.

For this year’s ceremony, pianist Kelvin Guo ’18 and violinist Jasmine Terry-Shindelman ’15 performed processional music from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (Spring), and Guo performed the recessional piece Sonata in B-flat minor, Molto Moderato by Franz Schubert.

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