Barry Mills: A Thanksgiving Message


At his desk the day before Thanksgiving, Barry Mills reflects on the holiday and on some of the many reasons to be grateful.

It is a very beautiful and quiet morning on the Bowdoin Quad. As I write, it is the day before Thanksgiving, and most of our students have gone home or are celebrating the holiday away from campus with friends. Faculty and most of our staff are off today preparing for the holiday and getting some well-deserved time with family and friends.

About 150 students remain on campus. Some live too far away from Brunswick to make the trip home. Others will be competing on our winter sports teams over the weekend. And, for a variety of reasons, a few more have simply decided to stay put. We are blessed with an incredibly thoughtful group of host families in the area who will welcome many of these students into their homes for the holiday celebrations. These generous friends and neighbors are a very important part of our Bowdoin community, and a few weeks ago, during a gathering in Daggett Lounge, I had the opportunity to personally thank many of them for the care and mentoring they provide for Bowdoin students who find themselves far away from home.

We all have much to be thankful for as we reflect during this Thanksgiving. Each of us faces life’s challenges individually, but our common bond is our connection to Bowdoin, to the liberal arts tradition, and to the excellence this College represents. And on this holiday when we give thanks, we can be grateful that Bowdoin’s steadfast commitment to the common good fundamentally grounds our College with a strong sense of responsibility to work toward common ends in service to society.

During this holiday period, many of our alumni are drawn back to the College as they reflect on their time here and seek to reconnect with their Bowdoin. A number of recent graduates have written or stopped by my office recently to let me know what they’re up to and to reinforce their deep connection to this place. Much is said about a generation of college graduates in America who face dim prospects for the future. It isn’t easy for anyone, but my fact-based impression of Bowdoin graduates is that they are getting good jobs, doing important work, and building careers and lives for themselves that will be satisfying and rewarding. Many speak about the opportunities provided by our Bowdoin alumni and parent network, and they are tremendously grateful for this support.

And we are grateful to them. I hear over and over again about the abiding desire among our graduates to give back to their communities and to their College, and we see the results of this commitment all around us. We see it in our schools, in our medical professions, in business, social services, the law, in government, and in dozens of other fields. We also see it among our recent graduates who are actively supporting and protecting the many freedoms we enjoy through their service in the military. We admire the brave and committed men and women who have taken on this important responsibility, and we wish them the very best.

We have all experienced life’s unpredictable ups and downs. Hurricane Sandy is a vivid reminder of how powerless we can be to the forces around us. Our individual health and the health of our families and friends is the most important, the most fragile, and the most unpredictable life force of all. And it is the strength of our individual values and the bonds and love of our family and friends that sustain us in the face of life’s challenges. Those of us in the Bowdoin family have an extra special support system through our connection to this College and through the enduring personal friendships created and nurtured on this campus. We are all very fortunate to have this connection to Bowdoin.

I wish you all a very healthy, peaceful, and joyous Thanksgiving holiday, and I look forward to Monday when the Quad comes alive again and the beat of Bowdoin goes on.


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 here or on the Bowdoin website.


  1. Marguerite Tompkins says:

    Thank you for this lovely message.

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