President’s Welcome to Incoming Students, August 26, 2017

Transcript of the President’s Welcome to Incoming Students

Melissa Quinby: Interim Dean of First-year Students

Hello class of 2021. Welcome to Bowdoin.

Let me also extend a Bowdoin hello and a very warm welcome to our three transfer students, our student attending through the 12-college exchange, and our upper class student joining us from France.

My name is Melissa Quinby and I am the interim dean for first-year students here at Bowdoin. I graduated from Bowdoin in 1991, and I am beginning my 11th year working at the college.

I believe that I speak for all the faculty, staff, administrators and current Bowdoin students when I express how delighted and enthusiastic we are to finally see all of you gathered here at the Walker Art Museum steps. You have concluded your orientation experience, showered, settled into your rooms, reviewed your orientation schedule, gotten to chat with your roommates, maybe even napped a bit.

But now the formal on-campus part of orientation has begun. There has been a great deal of preparation organized for your arrival to campus and it is truly wonderful that this day and that this event at this place has finally arrived.

To get things started, it is my honor to introduce Whitney Soule, dean of admissions and financial aid at Bowdoin College.

Whitney heads the brilliant department that made the smart decision to accept all of you. Dean Soule is in her tenth year at the college. Prior to her tenure as dean of admission and financial aid, she worked as director of admissions. Whitney graduated from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and she received her masters degree from Harvard University.

More importantly, she is often seen at Gelato Fiasco in downtown Brunswick, trying to earn enough points to get the honor of naming a flavor.

Keep an eye out for it.

She loves walking her two dogs, a black dog and an English bulldog, at Bowdoin’s many beautiful properties.

At Bowdoin, Whitney leads the college’s effort to enroll talented and deserving students and to teach millions of people outside of the Northeast how to properly pronounce Bowdoin.

Please welcome Whitney Soule.

Whitney Soule: Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid

Good evening everyone.

It is true I am trying to get a Gelato Fiasco flavor so someday if you go there and there’s one called the Whitney, it’ll be really good. I don’t know whats going to be in it yet but it’ll be a lot of stuff.

Let me say welcome to all of you.

As Melissa said, this is my tenth year, I’m just starting my tenth year, but my ninth year was my first as dean, which means you are my first class as dean of admissions and financial aid, so you will forever be especially important to me. So welcome.

You’ve all just taken on the first of many challenges at Bowdoin, whether you were hiking, cooking food over a fire, paddling on a river or an ocean, offering your skills in service, or active in one of the many other experiences within your orientation trips. And within just a few days many of you have begun to form important friendships and been inspired or humbled by those around you.

So just as a quick check-in, how many of you tried a new food this week on your orientation trip?

How many of you carried gear that you have never seen, used or heard about before? That is more hands by the way. How many of you slept outdoors for the first time?

How many of you got wet?

That’s almost everybody. If you can’t see behind you, that’s a lot.

Generally, how many of you did something in the last three days that you wouldn’t have expected yourself to do before this experience?

And that is just about everybody.

And that’s great, and I want you to get used to that because that is the beginning of what this experience is going to be like for you in the next four years.

You probably all have clear memories about what the application process was like for you, but let me tell you what it’s like for me and the team in admissions.

Reading an application is a bit like reading a short story — there is a main character, which is you, obviously, sometimes supporting characters, and multiple brief narratives that describe context, personality and emotion.

And when we read an application, we develop a mental picture of the characters and scenery just like when you read a book.

So you can imagine how exciting it is for us, and for me, to have the characters, you, show up in 3D, real people with all the completeness and distinction of your whole selves.

For example, you might appreciate some of the tidbits that got our attention when we were reading your applications.

These flags that are on the stage, these flags represent the countries that represent you. And these countries are important to the cultural context that has helped shape you, your ideas, your questions — all of which you bring into the Bowdoin community.

And there’s more: you represent all kinds of families and experiences, some of you following your family to the Bowdoin community, some of your finding us on your own, and some of you beginning this experience as the first in your families to attend college.

We recognize the courage, compassion and forgiveness that you have already extended in your lives so far, and we are impressed.

For each of you, we sensed a great fit and when we read the story of you, we could see the next chapter of your story here at Bowdoin.

And we’re excited you could as well.

A couple other neat things: a third of you, at least a third of you, played an instrument and thanks to your versatility as musicians, I now know what a fluglehorn and a vibraphone is. If you don’t know, I could tell you but I suggest you ask around and meet some people.

You have already demonstrated your ability to lead, as caregivers to family members, babysitters, captains, student government officers, heads of clubs, peer mentors, club founders, camp counselors, job-shift leaders, clothing designers, and so on.

And there are some skills among this group that might not be obvious just by looking around.

For instance, can you tell who in this group, among your classmates, is an acrobat, with aerial silks? Or the one who knows how to care for yaks? You’re all looking around now by the way. Who speaks five languages? I could tell you who they are. But again I am going to challenge you to keep meeting people and keep asking questions and let you find out who they are.

I also want to switch gears for a moment back to something Dean McCormack offered when she greeted you and your families Tuesday afternoon.

She told your parents not to be surprised when you reached out to them to download your worries, your anxious moments, your concerns. She reminded them that after those calls, free of the weight of worry, being lifted at least temporarily and transferred to your family, that you’d be off with your friends.

Well, I’m a mom. I’ve got one daughter who has completed college and one who is going to start her senior year at college.

And here is a public service announcement to families who have sent a grown ready to leave child onto college

Remember that you have left them — their lives are in the same routine and space as you remember, but for them, that all feels different and unusual without you there. They can’t see your new routine, they don’t know who you are laughing with, where you study and how you spend your time. They do need to hear from you. So please call home.

Enough from me. I’d like to introduce to you President Clayton Rose, and if you, or your parents in conversation have spent any time wondering about whether this liberal arts effort is worth it, about whether it can develop the specific skills you need to be successful in our world, Clayton is an excellent example of the preparation and flexibility within the liberal arts training.

He attended the University of Chicago as an undergraduate and he went onto earn his MBA also at the University of Chicago. And after a 20-year successful career in finance, he returned to school. He earned another MBA and also his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania focusing on issues of race in America.

After that career course correction, he served as a faculty member at the Harvard Business school, and he is an expert on the responsibility of leadership, ethics, and the role of business in society.

And once again, liberal arts flexibility, another career change, and lucky for us, in the summer of 2015, Clayton joined us at the 15th president of Bowdoin College.

Clayton and his wife, Julianne, have two grown sons: Garett, a graduate of the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago law school, and also, his son Jordan, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School.

And close to my own heart, both Julianne and Clayton are dog lovers so I knew we would be friends.

Clayton Rose, President of Bowdoin College

Thank you, Whitney.

Good evening Class of 2021! And to our exchange and transfer students as well, it is awesome to have you back on campus. I hope you had an amazing time on your orientation trips and I am just so pleased to be with you this evening and have a chance to share some thoughts with you about your time at the college which has already started.

But first, I thought what might be helpful is to share a few things you might want to know about the president of your college.

So when I was in college I had hair, I had a lot of hair. And I have no idea what happened actually.

I started as a pre-med student, and that came to an abrupt end when I was introduced to organic chemistry. It’s part of the journey and things seem to have worked out okay for me.

I grew up outside of San Francisco and during my time growing up there I made lots of jokes about New Jersey. So it is poetic justice I lived in New Jersey for 20 years where we raised our boys. And I am hear to say for those of you from New Jersey and those of you who are not, it is an awesome place to live.

As Whitney said, I love dogs, and I spoil mine rotten.

Ice cream is a stand-alone food group, and it is the most important of all of the food groups. Pizza being a close second.

What is most important to me is my family: my wife and partner of 34 years, Julianne, who is here; my two boys who you have heard about, Garett and Jordan; our daughter-in-law, Meredith; and most special to me, our new granddaughter Petra, who is six months old. And you will get to meet Emmie, our black lab around campus before too long.

So, enough about me. Let us turn to your favorite subject, you.

Among the community that you have joined — 30,000 graduates over the last 211 years. There are giants in literature and letters; military heroes; Arctic explorers; individuals who have broken racial and gender barriers; pioneering scientists and doctors; great political, government, and diplomatic figures; finance titans; Olympic champions; leaders in technology; and great philanthropists. And there are many, many more who have made a real difference and lived lives of real meaning out of the spotlight. And like you, they gathered, as we are tonight here in front of the steps of the Walker art building and other places on the quad, to begin their time at the College.

You are them and they are you.

Now in a few days each of you will visit, with your dormitory room, my office to sign the Matriculation Book on a desk that belonged to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Class of 1825, and you’ll have a chance to see the signatures of other first-year students dating far back into the life of the College, some of which will be familiar to you. This act will be a tangible symbol of your permanent link to Bowdoin.

Now, what I’m going to offer you in these remarks tonight will sound like serious stuff, and it is. There will be plenty of time for us to have some fun together, as Julianne will tell you, I’m all about fun — that was a bit of a joke. We’ve played the Newlywed Game together at Howell House, I’ve gotten seriously wet in kayaking practice at Greason pool in something run by the Outdoor Leadership Center, and more recently, I participated in a “mock-u-mentary” about the lives of squirrels on our campus. And I look forward to whatever it is that we are going to cook up together.

But tonight I want to focus on some important and serious matters.

First a word, about our values. In great measure, you were accepted to Bowdoin because of your character. We expect you to use your sound judgment and your sense of what is right and appropriate. We have, as you know, an Honor Code and a Social Code. You need to read and understand both of these, and in the next few days you will be asked to affirm in writing that you have done both and that you will abide by them. We expect and require you to do so.

The rules are pretty simple and pretty obvious — do your own work, be diligent about referencing sources, be careful about how you use the internet. On the social side, it is all about respect, for yourselves and for one another. You will be held to a high standard at Bowdoin, which I know you value and expect.

I want to share, and I have two central thoughts for you this evening. I offer only two in the hope that you will remember them, think about them, talk about them with one another over dinner, and ponder them in the days, weeks and four years ahead. I also hope that they will excite and energize you.

The first is, you are here to be challenged like never before, and, the second is, you are here to become intellectually fearless.

First, on being challenged. The better way of saying this is that you are here to challenge yourself.

You’ll find the work will push you, and at times it will push you very hard. And getting used to the level and the pace of the work of college takes some time, for each and every one of you. Do not think that you are the only one – others may look like they are gliding along, but remember, like a duck that glides along the water, they are paddling furiously underneath. College takes time and is a challenge for everyone.

As you do get your arms around college and you progress through your time here, I encourage you, strongly, to keep pushing yourselves, pull yourself out of your comfort zone in the degree of sophistication of the material that you take and in the subjects that may not be natural for you. In doing so, you will learn a lot, you’ll discover a lot about yourself. In stretching and pushing yourself, you will find out what you are capable of accomplishing, and the satisfaction from that is simply amazing. Now that isn’t to say that you won’t fail or come up short of your expectations. From time to time, you will, and you should.

We grow and we learn, in good part, by failing, by figuring out what went wrong, and by moving ahead. It isn’t fun all the time — it’s probably not fun any of the time — but it will be deeply satisfying. And the most successful people I know in all walks of life have learned from the failure that comes from pushing and stretching yourselves.

And as you do this, know that there is a big net here — great support from your faculty (they are amazing and they want to help you, and you need and should reach out to them), the dean’s staff, Res Life, so many resources here, and critically, you have each other.

One of the defining characteristics of a Bowdoin student, in addition to all of you being wicked smart (which is a Maine expression), is a disposition to collaborate, to work together, to see that learning is not something where for me to win you have to lose. We all learn and we do well together here at Bowdoin.

So challenge yourselves. It will give your four years here deep meaning and satisfaction.

Now here is the other essential thing I have come to tell you this afternoon, and I shared this in these same remarks that I made on these steps last year and it was the catalyst for some great discussions we had on campus.

At the core of a Bowdoin education, at the center of our mission, is the goal of helping you to become intellectually fearless.

There are many things that you’re going to do here. You’ll go to class. You’ll make deep, lifelong friendships. You’ll compete athletically, you’ll engage in cultural and artistic endeavors, and you’ll simply have fun and goof around.

But when it’s all stripped away, our essential goal is to help you to develop intellectual fearlessness — the skills, the knowledge, and the disposition to deeply and effectively engage with the world’s most challenging issues and problems.

To do this, a great liberal arts education a great liberal arts experience must make you uncomfortable. Now think about that for a moment — uncomfortable and fearless. I am here to become intellectually fearless, and to do that I must be at times uncomfortable, rattled, and yes, even offended.

Our education and our experience are more about the questions than they are about the answers. They are about challenging deeply held views and pushing ourselves to comprehend new material — to engage with new ideas and ideas that we disagree with and, in doing so, to consider material that shakes us up, that unsettles us, and that yes, may offend us.

A great liberal arts education is not an easy thing. But it is deeply rewarding, it will set you on a path to ambitiously engage the world, to continue learning, to confront hard problems, and to enjoy success. You will learn new ways of thinking about old problems. You will test and affirm many ideas you hold dear. And on occasion you will change your mind.

Do not avoid being uncomfortable, embrace it.

Tomorrow, a week from now, a year from now, when you are in a discussion in class, or you are listening to a speaker — you’re in the dining hall, you’re in your dorm room, and you hear something that really pushes your buttons, that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, don’t avoid it, run to it, embrace it, figure out what’s making you uncomfortable or unsettling you and then engage with it. Engage with it in a thoughtful, respectful, and objective but rigorous way. This is how you learn. This is how you’re going to have effect on the really tough problems and this is how you become intellectually fearless. And doing all this, this is how you change the world. Remind yourself at these times that this is exactly why you are here.

If you think the same way, and think about the same things in the same way four years from now, something has gone wrong.

Now I know that this is a little scary, but it is also incredibly exciting. You have earned the opportunity to spend the next four years here developing the knowledge, the skills, and the disposition to really engage the world and its big problems. And that is simply an amazing thing.

So embrace the opportunities for challenge, embrace the opportunity to become intellectually fearless – and if you do as as our sixth president William de Witt Hyde said in The Offer of the College, these will be among “the best four years of your life.”

I am thrilled that you are here. Welcome to Bowdoin College!

Melissa Quinby: I would now like to introduce Anthony Antolini, Bowdoin College class of 1963. Professor Antolini is a senior lecturer in the music department and the director of the Bowdoin Chorus. Anthony will lead in the singing of the alma mater.

Anthony Antolini: Bowdoin Chorus Director

Res Life come on up here, I don’t do this by myself.

Everybody else, up.

Here’s an opportunity for you to do something fearlessly.

Ready? Fearlessly!

The class sings the alma mater.

“Raise songs to Bowdoin, praise her fame,
And sound abroad her glorious name;
To Bowdoin, Bowdoin lift your song,
And may the music echo long
O’er whispering pines and campus fair
With sturdy might filling the air.
Bowdoin, from birth, our nurturer and friend
To thee we pledge our love again, again.

While now amid thy halls we stay
And breathe thy spirit day by day,
Oh may we thus full worthy be
To march in that proud company
Of poets, leaders and each one
Who brings thee fame by deeds well done.
Bowdoin, from birth, our nurturer and friend
To thee we pledge our love again, again.”

Melissa Quinby:
Thank you, Anthony, thank you, Res life. This concludes the President’s Welcome to the Class of 2012. You’ll now be gathering with your proctor and your floor to prepare for the Maine theme dinner in Thorne Hall.The following dorms are expected in Thorne at 6:15 this evening: Osher, West, Hyde and Maine, for most of you it will be your first dinner in the dining hall, savor this first meal. I’ll look forward to seeing all of you again tonight at the class meeting. Welcome to Bowdoin.

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