Bowdoin College President Emeritus Barry Mills returned to campus May 17, 2016, for the unveiling of his presidential portrait.
In the Shannon Room, Hubbard Hall, before a huge crowd and before the painting was revealed President Clayton Rose spoke of the contributions that will be Mills’s legacy, noting that he was “relentless and incredibly successful in growing our endowment for financial aid and in supporting our ‘need-blind’ admissions policy.”
Rose said Mills made us understand in our heads and hearts that Bowdoin is a college without peer.
“We are unique—we offer a great liberal art education and liberal art experience, and do so with a distinct set of values shared by everyone in our community,” Rose said.
“With warmth, humility, respect, integrity, and most importantly, values centered on the common good—we understand that we have an obligation to something bigger than ourselves. No one has lived the common good more than Barry.” Read the full text of President Rose’s remarks.
As they unveiled their work, the artists, Warren Prosperi, a painter in the Optical Naturalist tradition, and his wife, photographer and artistic collaborator Lucia Prosperi, spoke of observing Mills and his engaging interactions with students.
“We watched that over and over again,” said Warren Prosperi. “Each time he struck a certain posture and a certain demeanor, and it became apparent to both Lucia and me that that had to be what the picture was about.”
The Prosperis’ other works have been shown at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and across the US and Europe. Their painting Epiphany 3 hangs as part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
After the painting was unveiled to applause and enthusiasm, Mills expressed his gratitude.
“As we think about leadership,” Mills said, “you can’t do this alone. What they really should have painted was a big mural—with Karen and Will and Henry and George, as they helped lead this college together with me.”
Mills also recognized faculty “who are our most important asset,” the staff, students and alumni.
“This Bowdoin community is incredibly special.”
Mills, a member of the Class of 1972, was president of the College for fourteen years, from 2001 to 2015.