Bowdoin College held its 2015 Baccalaureate ceremony Friday, May 22, marking the official close of the academic year and celebrating the College’s 210th Commencement, to be held Saturday, May 23).
President Barry Mills, having announced he will be stepping down July 1, 2015, presided over the ceremony for the last time, using the opportunity to thank the Bowdoin community.
“It has been a joy to lead this great College for these past fourteen years,” Mills said. “I thank you all for what has been the opportunity of a lifetime.”
In keeping with his tradition of using his Baccalaureate address to discuss issues of importance to the College, President Mills spoke of change and transition.
“We should remember that no institution can live on its past, no matter how praiseworthy that past may be,” said Mills, quoting, as he had done in his inauguration address in 2001, Roger Howell, who was the president of Bowdoin at the time of Mills’ own graduation in 1972.
“If the study of the past leads to a stimulation of our minds for the future, then the effort is a laudable enterprise. If it lulls us to complacent inactivity, then it is fatal.”
Mills also spoke of a moral leadership comprising truly knowing oneself and acting on one’s beliefs. “This is the lesson of leadership I have personally endeavored to live and lead by at Bowdoin and the lessons I hope we have inscribed upon our doorposts and our gates,” said Mills.
“For me, it is the essence of our historic commitment to the common good. This is our responsibility as leaders of Bowdoin and as engaged citizens going forth into new communities.” Read the full text of President Mills’ remarks.
Voices from Bowdoin’s Past
Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster delivered “Voices from Bowdoin’s Past,” a Baccalaureate tradition, in which he spoke of the zigzag path taken by Jere Abbott ’20, who taught physics at the College for a time before helping to establish the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Read the text of Dean Foster’s “Voices from Bowdoin’s Past” address.
DeAlva Stanwood Alexander Prize Winner Robert Feeney ’15
In his address, “Evolving with Empathy,” Robert Feeney ’15 reminds us of the effect our actions have on other people — and vice versa.
“We must never act as though our success is entirely our own,” Feeney said.
“Each and every one of us has succeeded at Bowdoin due to the guidance, generosity, and respect of others—our lives, from beginning to end, are dependent on family members, friends, mentors, donors, professors and others. So as each of us sets off on a different path, we must always take the time to acknowledge and appreciate these people who have helped us, and those who continue to help us along the way.” Read the full text of Feeney’s remarks.
DeAlva Stanwood Alexander Prize Winner Margaret Lindeman ’15
Margaret Lindeman ’15, also a DeAlva Stanwood Alexander Prize winner, says she wanted to share with classmates her sense of appreciation for what they had given her over the past four years. In her talk, “The Bowdoin Goodbye,” Lindeman considers “the Bowdoin hello” and what has happened since they first greeted each other on the Museum steps at the beginning of their journey.
“We grew up a little, I think, in all kinds of different ways. But the whole time, we moved in each other’s orbits, colliding with each other and sharing little pieces of ourselves in late night conversations, heated debates, long-overdue catch-ups in the Moulton light room, distribution requirements, physics labs,” Lindeman said.
“Each of us did pretty well for ourselves, sure, but when you put us together, we are something much greater than the sum of our parts. To solve the daunting problems that our world will face in the next few decades, we will need scientists who can talk to economists, economists who can talk to policy makers, historians who can help us understand what has and hasn’t worked before, teachers who can make sure the next generation is smarter than we are…the list goes on.” Read the full text of Lindeman’s remarks.
Keynote Address: Jill Lepore
Jill Lepore, Harvard University’s David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History, a staff writer for The New Yorker and a 2015 honorary degree recipient, delivered the keynote address, “The Courage of Conviction,” in which she shared with her audience the urgent advice poet and Bowdoin College graduate Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s mother once imparted to him in a letter. “Admire what is worthy,” she told him. “And do work worth admiring.”
Lepore’s words, poetic in their own right, were resonant in a way that would make Longfellow’s mother, and surely those in attendance, nod with approval. “[G]ive to the people who love you the gift of telling them what they mean to you, and give to the people who have taught you the gift of telling them what they have taught you,” Lepore said.
“Language contains conviction. So give to the world the gift of your voice: say what you mean, and mean what you say.” Read the full text of Lepore’s remarks.
The audience was led through renditions of “America the Beautiful” and “Raise Songs to Bowdoin,” accompanied by Director of the Bowdoin Chorus Anthony Antolini ’63 on piano.
Images by Michele Stapleton: