Barry Mills on the Joys of March in Maine

In his weekly commentary, President Barry Mills describes why his job is so special—even during March in Maine.

March in Brunswick is a tough month for me. In many places, including my former home in New York City, spring is about to happen. In Maine, it’s usually still cold, windy, and often a bit gray. This year, the Snow Belt has been south of here in New York and even around Washington, D.C., and this past weekend, Maine was actually rather pleasant. Nonetheless, it is always good to get some consistent warm weather—something I’m looking forward to as I head off this week to visit alumni in Florida.

While the Maine spring can seem far away this time of year, March is actually a great time on campus, with all sorts of energy and activities. This past week began with Béla Fleck and several guest African musicians playing to a sold-out audience in Pickard Theater. On Wednesday, activist Angela Davis gave a spirited talk to a large group. Our student dance groups performed in Morrell Lounge Thursday evening, while theater-goers have been able to enjoy a student performance over the weekend of Martin McDonagh’s play, The Cripple of Inishmaan. On Thursday night in Pickard Theater, a packed house saw a premier showing of the HBO miniseries, The Pacific, made possible by Kary Antholis ’84, president of HBO Miniseries. All of us were moved to see a segment of the miniseries featuring our own Andrew Haldane of the Class of 1941 at the Battle of Peleliu—the very same battle where Haldane’s Bowdoin classmate, Everett Pope, earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. Then, over the weekend, all eyes were on the Polar Bears as Bowdoin hosted (and won!) the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament in women’s basketball, and as Watson Arena sold out twice for the NESCAC Championship in men’s ice hockey. While we suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 loss in the title game, “The Sid” was rocking all weekend with enthusiastic fans who came inside on a strangely sunny 55-degree Sunday afternoon to cheer Head Coach Terry Meagher and a fantastic group of young men who have thrilled our campus all season long.

Overall, it has been a week during which it was hard to know where to go first!

All of this activity brings our campus community together, and it reminds me—even as mud season approaches—about the best part of my job as president of Bowdoin: the opportunity to lead and work among great people who are genuinely enthusiastic about the College.

Institutions are about many things, but in the final analysis, they are all about people; their ambitions, their talents, and their values. At Bowdoin, the talent and excellence of our faculty define us, first and foremost. I encourage you to follow the Bowdoin Daily Sun and our Web site to learn what our faculty are doing these days. I think you will find particular pleasure reading about the five new faculty members who earned tenure last month.

We are defined also by a staff of exceptionally skilled and dedicated people. For example, the fact that Bowdoin’s Dining Service regularly receives rave reviews is certainly about the quality of the food (check out the recipe for the Bowdoin log and other favorites on the Bowdoin Daily Sun!). But I believe these consistent accolades are really because of the people who make and serve the food. The welcoming attitude and genuine warmth in our dining rooms is palpable. And this is equally true in facilities, student life, athletics, and even in the accounting and finance offices. Certainly, the yearly success we have had in annual giving is due not only to the generosity of our alumni but also to the genuine talent and goodwill of our folks in development.

Yet, as I say during every Reunion Weekend, the fundamental strength of Bowdoin is in our students. I have long thought it unfortunate that most alumni are unable to meet our current students when they visit for Reunion in early June, for these young men and women are truly the heart of the College. For a glimpse of some extraordinary talent, check out the list of students elected to Phi Beta Kappa this week. Bowdoin students are committed in the classroom, laboratory, and studio, and they are doing great work to advance their commitment to the common good—including most recently organizing a benefit for victims of the earthquake in Haiti and helping to lead a weekend of training on sustainability for other Maine college students.

If I could give each alumnus, alumna, and parent an assignment, it would be to come to campus and meet ten of our students to get an appreciation for the true power of Bowdoin at this time in our history. Have a look at this video for a glimpse of those you might meet.

So, while I head to Florida this week, I leave behind a campus bursting with activity, excellence, and enthusiasm. The sun will surely be hotter where I’m going, but for me, there is nothing as bright and gleaming as our small college in Maine—even in March.

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