Bowdoin Celebrates 212th Commencement

Bowdoin College conferred 478 bachelor of arts degrees to the Class of 2017, comprising students from 39 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 20 other countries and territories, during its 212th Commencement ceremony held Saturday, May 27.

Images by Michele Stapleton and Angie Devenney

The invocation delivered by Rabbi Simeon Maslin recalled the motto, Et aquila versus coelum — as an eagle toward the sky. “The founders of this college saw it as their sacred duty to prepare its young charges for roles of leadership in our great nation,” Rabbi Maslin said. “They prayed that the learning that they lovingly imparted to their students would enable those students, like eagles, to soar toward the heights — the heights of creativity, of social service, of healing, of unmodified truth, the heights of the pursuit of justice for all. These have been the goals of this great college through all the years of its existence.” Read the text of Rabbi Maslin’s invocation in its entirety.

President Clayton Rose welcomed the graduating seniors, their family and friends, and members of the Bowdoin community with a reference to “The Offer of the College,” in which Bowdoin’s seventh president, William DeWitt Hyde, described students’ time here as “the best four years of your life.”

Bowdoin Celebrates 212th Commencement May 27, 2017 from Bowdoin College on Vimeo.

“For those who have come before you — those who have marched across these steps — these were among the best four years both because of the rich, wonderful, challenging, and rewarding experiences on campus,” President Rose said. “And because of the foundation of knowledge, skills, friendships, and deep sense of self that comes from these experiences — experiences that will make your life richer every day.”

Rose recognized two students — Joseph Lace ’17 and Quincy Leech ’17 — who were both commissioned into the United States Marine Corps in a ceremony on campus the day before.

He then shared with the Class of 2017 advice of a more personal nature. “Find that person who will love you completely and without question — they are out there — and give them the same,” Rose said. “It is magic and life changing. Should you have kids, love them completely and make your time and attention a top priority. And grow the friendships that draw out the best in you, with those who love you for who you are and who are there for you, as you are for them.

“No amount of money, no fancy titles, no other goals can come close to the joy and intense satisfaction that come with these special relationships. Nothing else — nothing — will make you or your life as good.” 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 Starling Irving ’17 and Raisa Tolchinsky ’17.

Class of 1868 Prize Winner Starling Irving ’17
In her address, “The Cosmic Lottery,” Starling Irving shared the moving story of life lessons learned from annual Big Chill-like reunions at her parents’ cottage on a lake in Maine, and from a high school teacher who had advised, “Be modest about the experiences you have as a direct result of the cosmic lottery.”

Irving shared that, upon her acceptance to Bowdoin, she set about a course to prove herself worthy of the myriad opportunities it would bring.

“What I’ve learned in Bowdoin classrooms is invaluable,” Irving said. “But what has set Bowdoin apart for me, is the opportunity it has given me to truly connect with the people whose lives intersected with mine the day our Bowdoin stories began. The people we stop to say hi to in the halls of Smith Union are the people that we might end up working with or might inspire some future research we do. Maybe one of them might convince us to try yoga or maybe we’ll end up marrying one of them.” Read the full text of Starling Irving’s address.

Goodwin Commencement Prize Winner Raisa Tolchinsky ’17
Raisa Tolchinsky ’17 recited a poem she wrote for the occasion, For Bowdoin, Class of 2017. In it Tolchinsky traces a path of forging new friendships, of coming up with the answers, and of coming to the end of the experience.

An excerpt:

Because the reality is
that the time here has gone far too slowly and far too fast and a million other clichés,
and speaking of clichés, for many of us, Bowdoin was not “the best days of our lives”;
college was not all perfect grades and games and parties,
It was sometimes scary, and hard, and lonely,
and also surprising, and strange, and lovely
and a hundred other adjectives that will never be enough.
So maybe it’s ok that we can’t wrap it up,
that there is no one narrative, that we don’t know how to tell the story.
Maybe, for now, there are the moments
where we truly paid attention,
and maybe sometimes,
paying attention is enough.

Read Tochinsky’s poem in its entirety.

Baccalaureate 2017
Read about Bowdoin’s Baccalaureate ceremony, held Friday, May 26, 2017, in Sidney J. Watson Arena, with talks by (pictured, from left) President Clayton Rose, Laura Hernandez ’17, Hanna Holborn Gray, and Dean of Student Affairs Timothy Foster.

Honorary Degree Recipients
Bowdoin awarded four honorary degrees at the ceremony:

  • Tony Doerr ’95, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
  • Hanna Holborn Gray, Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History and president emeritus, University of Chicago
  • Fatuma Hussein, founder and executive director of the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine
  • Charles A. Leavall, conservationist, musician, and musical director for the Rolling Stones

Senior Class Gift
Senior Class President Esther Nunoo announced the class gift — a scholarship for a member of the Class of 2021, with participation by 64 percent of the graduation 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,” accompanied by Beckwith Artist in Residence George Lopez.

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