Bowdoin College conferred 488 bachelor of arts degrees to the Class of 2018, comprising students from 41 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 19 other countries and territories, during its 213th Commencement ceremony held Saturday, May 26, 2018.
Images by Gabe Souza and Tristan Spinski
After a moment of silence to honor all victims of school gun violence in the past year, the ceremony began with an invocation from Eduardo Pazos Palma, the College’s director of religious and spiritual life. He asked that the Class of 2018 “use the work of their hands and the work of their minds to advance the cause of the common good” and “find virtue every day of their lives where they seek it.” Read the full text of Pazos Palma’s invocation.
Greetings from the state to the senior class and their families were delivered by Yarmouth, Maine, native Jasper Houston ’18. “Maine means many different things to everyone here, and over our four years here we’ve led ourselves in many different directions,” he said. “Wherever life takes you after graduation, I hope you guide yourselves back here at some point, as Maine is a home that will always welcome you with wide arms and an open heart.” Read the full text of Houston’s greetings.
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.”
“These were among the best four years of their lives because of the rich, wonderful, challenging, and rewarding experiences on campus, 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,” President Rose said.
Rose took a moment to recognize graduating senior Charles Phillips, who was commissioned into the United States Marine Corps in a ceremony on campus one day earlier.
Rose then imparted some personal advice. “Find and nurture the special relationships that make you whole,” he said. “Find that person who will love you completely and without question—they are out there—and give them the same. It is magic and life changing.” Read the full text of President Rose’s remarks.
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 Jepté Vergara Benitez ’16 and Helen Galvin Ross ’18.
Class of 1868 Prize Winner Jepté Vergara Benitez ‘16
In his speech — “Believe in Yourself. The World is Waiting.” — Vergara Benitez reflects on perseverance in the face of challenges, sharing his gratitude for the people who have supported his journey while inviting listeners to think about those who’ve helped them reach their own milestones.
“We have gained important knowledge and skills, including what it takes to live up to our responsibilities to others,” he said.
Vergara Benitez said that as long as there are people who are grief-stricken, or denied essential resources, or persecuted or harassed — there will be opportunities and responsibilities to help others.
“We must move forward with determination, to inspire hope for a brighter future. Inspired by the generosity of Bowdoin, let us with grace and courage inspire resilience within people so that they can win their battles. Our success in changing lives for the better will require a lot of hard work. Regardless of how hard it seems, we cannot back down.” Read the full text of Jepté Vergara Benitez’s remarks.
Goodwin Commencement Prize Winner Helen Galvin Ross ’18
Ross began her speech, “A Dazzling Success: Our Work and the Stories We Tell Ourselves,” by acknowledging a shared temptation to dazzle — likening overachieving to “a second skin, a suit of armor, or a security blanket.” She encouraged her listeners to shed a few layers.
“It is often the undazzling that is the heart and root of anything great,” Ross said, urging listeners to “consider a world in which you no longer tie your self-worth in with immediate success” and to fail publicly and spectacularly.
“To insist on dazzling everyone around us, with the only other option being simply not attempting at all, is to close ourselves off from the reality of human relationships. We can only know the people around us, and to allow ourselves to be known, if fear of failure does not get in between.” Read the full text of Helen Galvin Ross’s remarks.
Honorary Degree Recipients
Bowdoin awarded three honorary degrees at the ceremony:
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author and MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” recipient
- Thomas R. Cech, chemist and Nobel laureate
- Susan E. Rice, former diplomat and government official
Senior Class Gift
Class President Shinhee Kang ’18 announced the class gift — a scholarship for a student entering the Class of 2022.
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.