Bowdoin Celebrates 211th Commencement

During Bowdoin College’s 211th Commencement ceremony, held May 28, bachelor of arts degrees were awarded to the Class of 2016, comprising students from 39 states, the District of Columbia, and 15 other countries and territories.

The invocation was delivered by the Rev. Robert Ives ’69, Bowdoin’s director of religious and spiritual life.

“As a ship sails forth from its harbor, sailors use bell buoys and lighthouses as the navigational aids to guide them on their journey,” Rev Ives said, before sharing words of guidance from the many faith traditions represented within the Class of 2016. Read the full text of Rev. Ives’ remarks.

Student speakers Rachel Snyder '16 and Bill De La Rosa '16, with Class President Roberto Tavel '16 (center).

Student speakers Rachel Snyder ’16 and Bill De La Rosa ’16, with Class President Roberto Tavel ’16 (center).

President Clayton Rose welcomed the graduating seniors, their family and friends, and members of the Bowdoin Community.

In his first Commencement address, President Rose spoke of what he called one of the most significant responsibilities and opportunities graduates will face—”the need to find ways for open, honest debate and discussion about the hardest ideas and most difficult social, political, and economic issues—discourse that we generally find deeply uncomfortable and sometimes even offensive.”

Rose warned of the echo chamber in which we often find ourselves engaging only with those with whom we agree on tough issues.

Rose said that engagement in respectful discussion and debate on important issues with those who disagree is important not only to test and sharpen our ideas, and to enrich our lives, but because democratic society depends on robust discourse.

“The stakes are high, but you are more than ready for this challenge,” said Rose. “I know this with certainty. You possess a powerful combination of intellect, knowledge, thoughtfulness, respect, and courage. Be confident and fearless, and engage. We are counting on you.” Read the full text of President Rose’s remarks.

Commencement Speakers

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 Bill De La Rosa ’16 and Rachel Snyder ‘16

Class of 1868 Prize Winner Rachel Snyder ‘16

Rachel Snyder ’16 used her talk, “The Time of Your Life,” to explain the phenomenon she calls Bowdoin Standard Time, a time warp in which days feel like weeks, and weeks end on Thursdays at 1:30 p.m.

“What happens tomorrow morning when I wake up to find that May is actually the middle of the year, and not the end of it?” Snyder asked. “For our entire lives, we’ve lived in the spaces between summers, in the gaps between midterms and finals, in the world of academia. Maybe today is really a graduation from the academic calendar to the actual one.”

“We all know that Bowdoin teaches us how to think critically, worship our curiosity, confront change head on,” she said. “But the more important lesson Bowdoin has taught us is to be engaged. Engaged with the common good, engaged with our intellect, engaged with each other and more importantly with ourselves. Bowdoin has taught us to be present in our own lives.

“We call today a commencement rather than a graduation. A beginning, not an ending. The clock starts now.” Read the full text of Snyder’s remarks.

Goodwin Commencement Prize Winner Bill De La Rosa ‘16

In his address, “The Power of the Common Good,” Bill De La Rosa ’16, who was born in the US but raised in Mexico, shared memories of going door-to-door selling his mother’s tortillas and tamales, and helping her clean motel rooms—before she was deported in 2009 and barred from returning to the US for 10 years. His father then had a stroke, leaving De La Rosa to care for him and two younger siblings.

“I am aware that I could not have done this alone,” De La Rosa said. “Had it not been for the collective effort of my community—the hot meals delivered, the support I received from my friends, teachers, and mentors—the love and sacrifices of my parents, had it not been for the power of the common good, I would not be standing here, nor would you be sitting there.”

“Growing up my mother would always tell me, “Hay que sembrar buenos frutos para cosechar buenas cosas.” We have to plant good seeds, to harvest great things,” said De La Rosa, adding that everyone can contribute to the common by making a meal for a neighbor, mentoring a new student, advocating for the environment, or embracing world politics.

Baccalaureate 2016
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Read about Bowdoin’s Baccalaureate ceremony, held Friday, May 27, 2016, in Sidney J. Watson Arena, with talks by (pictured, from left) Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, Maya Reyes ’16, President Clayton Rose, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, and Matthew Williams ’16.

“We all have the power of the common good.” Read the full text of De La Rosa’s remarks.

Honorary Degree Recipients

Bowdoin awarded four honorary doctorates at the ceremony:

  • Dorothea Rockburne, abstract artist
  • Frank Shorter, Olympic gold medalist
  • Peter M. Small ’64, P’97, P’99, trustee emeritus
  • Darren Walker, Ford Foundation President

Senior Class Gift

Senior Class President Roberto Doño Tavel ‘16 announced the class gift — a scholarship fund for an incoming member of the Class of 2020, with participation by 79 percent of the class.

Commencement Music

Chandler’s Band played during the Commencement march and recessional.

Senior members of the Chamber Choir, Chorus, and Student A Cappella groups performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and led the audience in a rendition of “Raise Songs to Bowdoin.”

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