Barry Mills on ‘Reunion Central’

With hundreds of aerobic handshakes behind him, President Barry Mills gets ready for Reunion.

Commencement weekend has come and gone for another year. For a few days this week, the campus was very quiet, but not for long because Thursday evening hundreds of alumni started to arrive for Reunion Weekend. This weekend we expect about 1,300 alumni and their guests, so we will be a very busy place once again. The weather last weekend was glorious, but the forecast for this weekend is a bit more uncertain.  As we all know, this is Maine, so we’ll see. But I’m certain the folks here to celebrate their reunion will have a great time, regardless of the weather. Among the things Bowdoin people know how to do well is celebrate.

I received many e-mails commenting on the video attached to my last posting showing our preparations for Commencement. Many were concerned that my new “move” for handing out diplomas would not work or might actually result in a workers’ compensation claim for repetitive stress or a rotator cuff injury. I am happy to report that I survived the 454 diplomas well, with no injuries, except for a very sensitive right hand caused by shaking every graduate’s hand plus many other hands over the weekend.  And I didn’t drop a single diploma with my behind-the-back move!

The new system worked quite well. We were able to continue our tradition of a very personal graduation ceremony, but we cut nearly 35 minutes off the time it takes to hand out all the diplomas.  Everyone in the crowd was thrilled, especially the faculty and parents.

I have been writing speeches for two weeks now for Commencement and this week for Reunion. My talk at Baccalaureate speaks in detail about our admissions results, as I promised. We will post on Sunday the talk I plan to give at Saturday’s Reunion Convocation, in which I will continue to analyze our admissions results and talk about the next big challenge—really, a continuing challenge—for the College. Since I don’t want to spoil the event for the people in attendance, I ask that you check out the Bowdoin Daily Sun over the weekend to read my most recent thoughts on the “price of excellence.”

Reunion Weekend is great fun for the folks returning to campus. It is a time to reconnect with old friends and to make new friends at Bowdoin with those our alumni may not have known well while they were in college. I visit every Reunion class at their headquarters, and it’s like going through all of the stages of life.

The five-year class returns with huge energy and enthusiasm ready to relive life on campus that is still fresh in their memories. The 10th year reunion is filled with a different energy, as many of these alumni return to introduce new spouses or significant others to their classmates. The 15th and 20th reunions are crowded with baby carriages and little kids outside playing soccer and baseball. The 25th reunion is the big deal—a milestone for so many as they return to Bowdoin often well settled in life. The 30th, 35th, 40th, and 45th reunions are much more relaxed events, with a great deal of singing usually taking place at the 40th and 45th reunions with men’s singing clubs and the life of fraternities playing a very big role in the memories of this crowd.

The 50th reunion is obviously another big milestone, and this year, the Class of 1960 continues its tradition of reserving time at Reunion for substantive discussions, as well as time for celebration. Members of this class have always used Reunion as a time to continue their education and to discuss important issues facing our country and the world. And this tradition will continue with the celebration starting today.

The “Old Guard” is always my favorite—folks who seem to get younger every year. Their enthusiasm for Bowdoin only grows heartier. There is no more thrilling moment than when they sing quite enthusiastically the alma mater, and this is the only time in the year that I don’t encourage our alumni to sing the modern version of this anthem, “Raise Songs to Bowdoin.”

So, I am off to visit with about 1,300 of my best friends this weekend. It is great fun for Karen and me to reconnect with everyone, but it is a marathon. It is worth all the effort because this is a weekend that reminds us of one of our core values at Bowdoin: the enduring nature of close personal friendships nurtured on this campus. I wish you all the best from Brunswick and “Reunion Central.”


In the coming weeks, I will continue to offer my thoughts on subjects interesting to me or of importance to the College, but I want to hear your ideas too. If there is a subject you’d like me to address, send me an e-mail at

Previous Bowdoin Daily Sun columns by President Barry Mills are available on the Bowdoin Web site.


  1. George Maling '52 says:

    In the spirit of Barry’s remarks about leadership and humor last weekend and the June 4 column, this old grad offers an old joke:

    Old Grad: When I graduated and the president gave me my diploma, he shook my hand and said two words which I have never forgotten, and which have guided whatever success I have had in life. Not only that, but he said them twice!

    Graduate to be: Cool! I hope the president gives me some words of wisdom when he shakes my hand. What, Old Grad, were these words?

    Old Grad: “Keep Moving…Keep Moving”

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