Each May, Bowdoin brings together financial aid donors and the students who have received financial aid to celebrate at the Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon. At this year’s event, the Longfellows performed a cappella songs and the audience heard from President Barry Mills, scholarship funders Ann and Rich Fudge ’72, and scholarship recipient Abby Roy ’16.
Mills spoke about how, in the past 14 years of his tenure as Bowdoin president, the world of financial aid has become more complex. While making Bowdoin accessible to low-income students is still a priority, the College’s focus has broadened. “As we look at what’s happening in our country and where wages are going and where wealth sits, we understand that even for the middle class, a college as expensive and sophisticated as Bowdoin College might be beyond their reach,” he said.
“Our responsibility, if our commitment to the common good means anything, is to commit to support poor kids from New York, kids from Maine, middle class kids from Seattle, kids from around the world,” Mills continued. These kids “come to the College, do amazing things while they’re here, but even more important, move to your communities and become leaders and change the way that your communities think and act in the fashion that we think of as the common good at Bowdoin College.”
Rich and Ann, when they stood to speak, warned the crowd of 450 students, donors, staff and faculty that they might become emotional, as it was the last time they would be joining Mills at one of these luncheons while he is still president. Rich was friends with Mills when they were students at Bowdoin. Ann, after she married Rich, lived in Brunswick and attended classes at the College for a year. She earned her B.A. from Simmons College.
An extremely accomplished businesswomen — Ann Fudge was named by Fortune Magazine as one of the 50 most influential women in business — she said recalled feeling supported and taken care of by Bowdoin when she moved into a house on Potter Street as a young mother. “This is a family,” she said about the College. “There are not many schools where you feel you’re part of a family that cares about you. It’s been a gift to us to be able to to give back and share what we’ve been the recipients of — people’s kindness and generosity — without which we wouldn’t be standing here today.”
Rich Fudge is also an accomplished businessman and longtime supporter of education and human rights. He said that around 14 years ago, Mills came to him asking for help to make Bowdoin a more diverse place. “The cool thing about Barry is, he has a good heart,” Rich said. “His heart is good. Smart people can be smart, but a good heart makes a smart person great. And Barry is one of those special people.”
After his conversation with Mills, Rich and Ann established a scholarship fund at Bowdoin. “I can’t tell you — it’s like preaching to the choir — but this is like a homecoming,” Rich said. “If we can do for these kids what other people did for us, this institution will be here for a long time. Because these young people will understand what it’s like to be the recipients of someone’s charity and generosity.”
This year’s event ended with remarks from junior Abby Roy, a Mitchell Scholar who is also supported by the Barry and Karen Gordon Mills Scholarship. Standing at the podium, she described growing up in central Maine with a close-knit family of hard-working mill workers and owners of small businesses. She said she began to struggle with the disjunction between her life at Bowdoin — where she was taking classes “with no practical application” and spending her “time leisurely discussing abstract ideas” — while at home, her family worked hard to make a living. “Was I making the best use of my time, and making the most of the resources they had worked so hard over the years to provide me with?” she asked.
Around the time she began questioning the validity of her place here, Roy said she became involved with the McKeen Center for the Common Good. She started organizing Aspirations in Maine Day, a McKeen Center program aimed to inspire high schoolers from Maine to attend college.
Something clicked then, and she saw her purpose. “The best way to make use of my elite Bowdoin education was to help other Maine students like me to understand that even they, from humble hardworking backgrounds, could and should be encouraged to attend college,” she said.
Photos by Dennis Griggs