A $5-million gift from Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings ’83 will provide for the development of a new program at Bowdoin College to substantially transform the college experience and improve the graduation rates of low-income students, first-generation students and those students traditionally underrepresented on college campuses.
Hastings’s gift will be fully spent to develop the program—known as THRIVE—and to bring it to scale. THRIVE offers comprehensive academic programming as well as support and skills development for participating students prior to matriculation. THRIVE will also support these students throughout their college careers in taking full advantage of the resources and opportunities that Bowdoin provides.
THRIVE builds on Bowdoin’s ongoing success in increasing the diversity of its campus across multiple dimensions. In fact, the entering Class of 2021 is the most culturally diverse and socioeconomically representative class in Bowdoin’s history. Through THRIVE, Bowdoin will do even more to ensure student success.
“Many studies, and our own experience, clearly show that incredibly talented and successful students from low-income families or who are the first in their families to attend college—students we actively seek and who are coming to Bowdoin—often have more difficulty transitioning to college and taking full advantage of all we have to offer,” said Bowdoin President Clayton Rose. “We need to ensure that Bowdoin is the place where these students have the kind of comprehensive experience that allows them to excel here and to graduate on time, ready to pursue full and rewarding lives and careers. Simply put, Reed, who is a passionate advocate for education, is making it possible for us to pursue this necessary work. We are tremendously grateful to him for his vision and generosity.”
Hastings said, “Making sure that these great students have the opportunity to fully experience a college education and to graduate on time is a critical challenge facing higher education. Clayton and I share the same goals for Bowdoin, and I am delighted to be able to help the College to develop the programming and capabilities to make this a reality.”
Hastings will join with a group of four educators who will stay up to date on the program’s progress, offer insights and support to the program’s leadership and meet on the Bowdoin campus annually to interact with THRIVE students. These educators have deep experience with traditional public, charter and private schools, and with the challenges facing less well-prepared students and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. They are:
Ronald C. Brady ’89, P’19, director of Democracy Prep Public Schools in Camden, N.J., and a current Bowdoin trustee;
Geoffrey Canada ’74, H’ 07, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City and a former trustee of the College;
Maggie O’Sullivan ’92, long-time public school teacher, founding school leader at Rainier Prep in Seattle, Wash., and the recipient of Bowdoin’s 2017 Distinguished Educator Award; and
Laura W. Perna, James S. Riepe Professor and executive director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Reed Hastings co-founded Netflix in 1997. As CEO, he has built the company into the world’s leading internet television network, with 104 million members in over 190 countries enjoying more than 125 million hours of TV shows and movies per day, including original series, documentaries and feature films. Hastings is also an active educational philanthropist who served on the California State Board of Education from 2000 to 2004. He is currently on the board of several educational organizations including the California Charter Schools Association, DreamBox Learning, KIPP, Pahara and the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley. He is also a board member of Facebook, and was on the board of Microsoft from 2007 to 2012. Hastings earned his BA in mathematics at Bowdoin and a master of science degree in computer science at Stanford University. Between Bowdoin and Stanford, he served as a Peace Corps high school math teacher in Swaziland.
As Bowdoin begins its 216th academic year, the College continues to experience a substantial increase in the number of low-income students, students of color and first-generation college students. A record 52 percent of the class is receiving need-based financial aid; 34 percent are students of color; and more than 16 percent are the first in their families to attend college. Bowdoin will provide $38.5 million in need-based financial aid to all students this year, with an average grant of $42,210. The College has not required loans in its financial aid packages since 2008.
THRIVE Advisory Group
Ronald C. Brady ’89, P’19 has dedicated his life to helping students from traditionally underserved populations in both public and charter school systems. Currently based in Camden, New Jersey, he is in his fourth year as a regional director for Democracy Prep Public Schools, a “no excuses” charter school management group serving students in several major east coast cities. He previously served as assistant to the chancellor of the New York City Board of Education (1994-1995) and later as director of the Office of State Operated School Districts in the New Jersey Department of Education (1995-1999). After graduating from Bowdoin, Brady went on to earn a master’s degree in public affairs at Princeton University, which led to a career in education management. Prior to his current role, Ron spent nearly a decade running Foundation Academies, a charter school organization he founded in 2005 that now educates more than one thousand K-12 students at its four campuses in the Trenton, New Jersey, area.
Geoffrey Canada ’74, H’07 is president of the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City, an organization that targets a 100-block area in Central Harlem with a comprehensive range of services aimed at providing children and their families with support and resources that can transform lives and communities. In 2011, Canada was named to Time Magazine’s list of the year’s 100 most influential people. In 2014, he was named one of Fortune’s 50 greatest leaders in the world. His awards are many, including the first Heinz Award in 1994 and the Harvard Graduate School of Education Medal for Educational Impact in 2012. A former overseer and trustee of Bowdoin College, Canada was the first recipient of Bowdoin’s Common Good Award and was co-recipient of Bowdoin’s highest honor, The Bowdoin Prize, in 2015. The National Book Award-winning author Jonathan Kozol has called Canada “one of the few authentic heroes of New York and one of the best friends children have, or ever will have, in our nation.”
Reed Hastings ’83 co-founded Netflix in 1997. As CEO, he has built the company into the world’s leading internet television network, with 104 million members in over 190 countries enjoying more than 125 million hours of TV shows and movies per day, including original series, documentaries and feature films. Hastings is also an active educational philanthropist who served on the California State Board of Education from 2000 to 2004. He is currently on the board of several educational organizations including the California Charter Schools Association, DreamBox Learning, KIPP, Pahara and the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley. He is also a board member of Facebook, and was on the board of Microsoft from 2007 to 2012. Hastings earned his BA in mathematics at Bowdoin and a master of science degree in computer science at Stanford University. Between Bowdoin and Stanford, he served as a Peace Corps high school math teacher in Swaziland.
Maggie L. O’Sullivan ’92 has focused her passion and talent for teaching innovation on providing opportunity for all students—particularly low-income students—who have historically had the most obstacles to academic achievement and access to higher education. While a teacher at Foster High School in Tukwila, Washington, O’Sullivan was instrumental in helping the school earn a Gates Achievers Scholarship, which ensured ten years of college funding for low-income students. Later, as principal in the Federal Way Public Schools, O’Sullivan’s school received a Martin Luther King Closing the Achievement Gap award. O’Sullivan founded one of the first public charter schools in Washington and has served as the leader since its founding two years ago. Rainier Prep, a public middle school, serves a student population in which more than 80 percent qualify for reduced or free lunch, and more than 90 percent identify as students of color. First-year test scores show the students out-performing state and district averages and significantly out-performing schools that serve similar populations. O’Sullivan was the 2017 recipient of Bowdoin’s Distinguished Educator Award, presented to the alumnus or alumna for outstanding achievement in education.
Laura W. Perna has dedicated her career to looking at the ways in which social structures, educational practices, and public policies both promote and limit college access and success, particularly those from lower-income families and racial/ethnic minority groups. The James S. Riepe Professor and Executive Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy, Perna is also past chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s faculty senate, chair of the Higher Education Division of the Graduate School of Education, faculty fellow of the Institute for Urban Research, faculty affiliate of the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative, and a member of the advisory board for the Netter Center for Community Partnerships. Perna’s current projects focus on improving equity in higher education in the US.