During Bowdoin College’s 210th Commencement ceremony, held May 23, 2015, bachelor of arts degrees were awarded to 473 students from 36 states, the District of Columbia, and 18 other countries and territories.
President Barry Mills, a member of the Class of 1972, welcomed the Class of 2015, their family and friends, and members of the Bowdoin Community. In his last Commencement address of his 14-year tenure, President Mills continued his tradition of speaking about the importance of leadership.
“There are two critical components of leadership among all the others you have learned and adopted at Bowdoin: a sense of humility and a sense of humor,” said Mills.
He told the graduates leadership requires empathy, and an understanding both in one’s heart and head of the issues and problems he or she seeks to solve.
“A Bowdoin leader leaves his or her ego at the door — it is not the volume of your voice, but the power of your ideas. And so, on this very important and celebratory day, I remind us all of our responsibility to lead, but also our responsibility to continue to learn and to listen. Listening is a much-underrated element of leadership.”
Mills reminded the audience that among the most underrated components of leadership is the ability to maintain a 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 is essential.” Read the full text of President Mills’ remarks.
The invocation was delivered by Rev. Robert Ives ’69, Bowdoin’s director of religious and spiritual life. Read the text of Rev. Ives’ remarks.
Greetings from the State of Maine were delivered by Olympic gold medalist and Trustee Joan Benoit Samuelson ’79, and U.S. Senator Angus S. King H’07 (I-Maine).
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 Stephanie “Stevie” Lane ’15 and Jared Littlejohn ’15.
Class of 1868 Prize Winner Stevie Lane ’15
Stevie Lane ’15 says she was seeking the humor that exists in this juncture of their lives when she composed her talk, “Ahead of You,” in which she explores her mother’s attempt at consolation in the wake of disappointing news: “Don’t worry, honey, you have your whole life ahead of you.”
“[A]s I continue to believe that, and continue to pursue the future I envision for myself, my whole life lies ahead of me, waiting,” said Lane.
“The moment I stop appreciating that I still have more to learn and to experience— stop treasuring that love of exploration, growth, and intellectual wonder which Bowdoin has taught me— that is the moment I forfeit the proverbial “whole life ahead of me” and my right to the optimistic outlook, which that saying represents.” Read the full text of Lane’s remarks.
Goodwin Commencement Prize Winner Jared Littlejohn ’15
Sharing his own experience of losing himself a little while trying to fit in during a summer job, Jared Littlejohn ’15 used his talk, “Lost & Found,” to inspire the audience to be their authentic selves.
“Do not spend a day trying to conform, because it may turn into weeks, then months, then years,” warned Littlejohn.
“Be as weird as you want to be, cry if you want to, dance if you want to, sing if you want, laugh if you want to, smile if you want to, and frown whenever you please. As my Grandma Moore says, ‘“if you have to change who you are in order for people to like you, to heck with them.'” Read the full text of Littlejohn’s remarks.
Honorary Degree Recipients
Bowdoin awarded five honorary doctorates at the ceremony:
• Jill Lepore, educator, author and essayist
• Barry Mills ’72, Bowdoin College President
• Karen Mills, Harvard Business School Senior Fellow
• Molly Neptune Parker, master Pasamaquoddy basketweaver
• David Swensen, Yale University endowment manager
Senior Class Gift
Senior Class President Josh Friedman announced the class gift — a scholarship fund for an incoming member of the Class of 2019.
Chandler’s Band played during the Commencement march and recessional.
Senior members of the Chamber Choir, Chorus and student a cappella groups, with piano accompaniment by Dieu Dac Ngoc Ho ’15, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and led the audience in a rendition of “Raise Songs to Bowdoin.”