This year’s 40th reunion prompts us to reflect on the extraordinary support the Museum has received from members of the class of 1976. The breadth and depth of their contributions is especially apparent in the sustained service of three individuals: José Ribas, Museum Preparator; Linda Roth, Trustee and Chairwoman of the Museum’s Advisory Council; and S. Catherine “Katy” Longley, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration & Treasurer at Bowdoin College. Their support of the Museum intersected in 2007-2010, during the renovation of the Walker Art Building that created opportunities for the academic community and the public to experience and study works of art in a renovated and expanded facility.
In Katy’s words, “this project helped transform the arts at the College and has opened up the Museum and its collection to even more students, the town of Brunswick, and the mid coast region. The Museum is a world-class destination for visitors.” It is in no small part thanks to these three members of the class of 1976 that the rejuvenated Museum will serve the Bowdoin campus and visitors from near and far for generations to come.
As the Museum’s Preparator, José was directly involved in the logistics of the transition and helped to define and plan for the Museum’s future needs. A charismatic advocate, Linda helped to galvanize support for the renovation among members of the administration and the wider Bowdoin community. Katy and her staff in the Treasurer’s Office acted as key facilitators and supervisors of this ambitious and laborious project.
José felt he belonged at the Museum since his first days on Bowdoin’s campus: “The Museum was a place of comfort for me. . . . Walking into the Walker Art Building was like coming home.” José began his museum experience side by side with Linda as an art history major taking classes in the Walker Art Museum’s chilly classroom—a retrofit coal-bin. Little did he know that his first-year internship under David P. Becker ’70 would lead to a professional career that has lasted more than 35 years. In his current position, José facilitates countless exhibitions, class visits, and public programs. As a former intern, José has also trained successive generations of students himself. Several of his former student assistants are now active in the art world as museum leaders, curators, and collectors.
Closely involved in the Museum since her sophomore summer, Linda is now the Senior Curator and Charles C. and Eleanor Lamont Cunningham Curator of European Decorative Arts at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. She gained her first art museum experience by cataloguing the Museum’s Molinari medals collection. When asked about the changes Bowdoin has seen over the past forty years, Linda stressed the integration of arts across disciplines, describing the Museum as being “so much more a part of campus” than in the past, including its “completely revolutionary” academic involvement with diverse departments across campus and its presence within the social fabric of the College. The development of the Museum’s involvement in student life includes its collaboration with the Student Museum Collaborative, co-founded by Linda’s son Stephen Roth ’13 during his time at Bowdoin. Linda’s passionate and insightful support of the Museum and the arts at Bowdoin has been instrumental.
Managing many projects throughout her fourteen years at Bowdoin, Katy is “especially proud to have been a part of the Museum renovation project in 2007.” Concluding her time in the Bowdoin Treasurer’s Office next month, Katy will be transitioning into the position of Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at the Jackson Laboratory this summer. In a recent letter to the campus community, President Rose described Katy as “a gifted leader who has an uncommon dedication to her position and to her alma mater.” When asked about what created the special spirit of the class of ’76, Katy and Linda both credited Richard Moll, the Head of Admissions in 1976. Moll guided the selection process with the goal of composing a “well-rounded class of individuals.”
We are exceedingly grateful for the support the Museum continues to receive from Bowdoin alumni. You have left an imprint on generations of students who have passed through the galleries. Cheers to the class of 1976!