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Bowdoin College

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Academic staff

Acceptance rate
14.3% (2016)

Total enrollment
1,805 (2014)

Clayton Rose

June 24, 1794

1,799 (Fall 2015)

1.34 billion USD (2016)

Polar Bear

+1 207-725-3000

Bowdoin College

Ut Aquila Versus Coelum (Latin)

Motto in English
As an eagle towards the sky

255 Maine St, Brunswick, ME 04011, USA

Notable alumni
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Joshua Chamberlain, Franklin Pierce, George J Mitchell

Bates College, Colby College, Middlebury College, Amherst College, Wesleyan University


Bowdoin college

Bowdoin College (/ˈbdn/ BOH-din) is a private liberal arts college located in Brunswick, Maine. At the time Bowdoin was chartered in 1794, Maine was still a part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The college currently enrolls 1,839 students, and has a student–faculty ratio of 9:1. Bowdoin offers 33 majors and four additional minors, and offers joint engineering programs with Columbia University, Dartmouth College, and Caltech.


The college was a Founding Member of its athletic conference, the New England Small College Athletic Conference and has a historical connection with Bates College and Colby College, all of whom are part of the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Consortium. Bowdoin has over 30 varsity teams and the school mascot was selected as a Polar Bear in 1913 to honor a Bowdoin alumnus who led the first successful expedition to the north pole.

The main Bowdoin campus is located near Casco Bay and the Androscoggin River; in addition to its Brunswick campus, Bowdoin also owns a 118-acre coastal studies center on Orr's Island, and a 200-acre scientific field station on Kent Island in the Bay of Fundy. For 2017 the college has been ranked as sixth-best liberal arts college in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report.

Founding and 19th century

Bowdoin College was chartered in 1794 by the Massachusetts State Legislature and was later redirected under the jurisdiction of the Maine Legislature. It was named for former Massachusetts governor James Bowdoin, whose son James Bowdoin III was an early benefactor. At the time of its founding, it was the easternmost college in the United States, as it was located in Maine.

Bowdoin began to develop in the 1820s, a decade in which Maine became an independent state as a result of the Missouri Compromise and graduated U.S. President Franklin Pierce who played an integral role the nation's enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, and advocated for the land rights of cotton plantations. The college also graduated two literary philosophers, the writers Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, both of whom graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1825. Franklin and Hawthorne began an official militia company called the 'Bowdoin Cadets'.

From its founding, Bowdoin was known to educate the sons of the politically elite and "catered very largely to the wealthy conservative from the state of Maine." With the establishment of Bates College in nearby Lewiston, Bowdoin has historically competed with the school academically, and athletically, due to the natural rivalry that grew out of the stark difference between the two colleges, specifically regarding wealth, admissions, and academic platforms. During the first half of the 19th century, Bowdoin required of its students a certificate of "good moral character" as well as knowledge of Latin and Ancient Greek, geography, algebra and the major works of Cicero, Xenophon, Virgil and Homer.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, "the little lady who started this big war", started writing her influential anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin in Bowdoin's Appleton Hall while her husband was teaching at the college, and Brigadier General (and Brevet Major General) Joshua Chamberlain, a Bowdoin alumnus and professor, was present at the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House in 1865. Chamberlain, a Medal of Honor recipient who later served as governor of Maine, adjutant-general of Maine, and president of Bowdoin, fought in Gettysburg, where he was in command of the 20th Maine in defense of Little Round Top. Major General Oliver Otis Howard, class of 1850, led the Freedmen's Bureau after the war and later founded Howard University; Massachusetts Governor John Andrew, class of 1837, was responsible for the formation of the 54th Massachusetts; and William P. Fessenden (1823) and Hugh McCulloch (1827) both served as Secretary of the Treasury during the Lincoln Administration. However, the college's involvement in the Civil War was mixed as Bowdoin had many ties to slave labor and the Confederacy.

With strained slave-relations between political parties President Franklin Pierce appointed Jefferson Davis as his Secretary of War, and the college awarded the soon-to-be President of the Confederacy an honorary degree. The Jefferson Davis Award was given to a student who excelled in legal studies after a donation was given to the college by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The award, however, was discontinued in 2015, with the current college president citing it as inappropriate due to the fact it was named after someone "whose mission was to preserve and institutionalize slavery." President Ulysses S. Grant, too, was given an honorary degree from the college in 1865. Seventeen Bowdoin alumni attained the rank of brigadier general during the Civil War, including James Deering Fessenden and Francis Fessenden; Ellis Spear, class of 1858, who served as Chamberlain's second-in-command at Gettysburg; and Charles Hamlin, class of 1857, son of Vice President Hannibal Hamlin.

20th century

Although Bowdoin's Medical School of Maine closed its doors in 1921, it produced Dr. Augustus Stinchfield, who received his M.D. in 1868 and went on to become one of the co-founders of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In 1877, the college would go on to graduate the infamous Charles Morse, the American banker who established near-monopoly of the ice business in New York, which directly lead to the financial Panic of 1907. Another alumnus in the sciences is the controversial entomologist-turned-sexologist Alfred Kinsey, class of 1916.

The college went on to educate and eventually graduate Arctic explorers Robert E. Peary, class of 1877, and Donald B. MacMillan, class of 1898. Peary led the first successful expedition to the North Pole in 1908, and MacMillan, a member of Peary's crew, explored Greenland, Baffin Island and Labrador in the schooner Bowdoin between 1908 and 1954. Bowdoin's Peary–MacMillan Arctic Museum honors the two explorers, and the college's mascot, the polar bear, was chosen in 1913 to honor MacMillan, who donated a statue of a polar bear to his alma mater in 1917.

Wallace H. White, Jr., class of 1899, served as Senate Minority Leader from 1944–1947 and Senate Majority Leader from 1947–1949; George J. Mitchell, class of 1954, served as Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995 before assuming an active role in the Northern Ireland peace process; and William Cohen, class of 1962, spent twenty-five years in the House and Senate before being appointed Secretary of Defense in the Clinton Administration.

In 1970, it became one of a very limited number of liberal arts college to make the SAT optional in the admissions process, and in 1971, after nearly 180 years as a small men's college, Bowdoin admitted its first class of women. Bowdoin also phased out fraternities in the late 1990s, replacing them with a system of college-owned social houses. Bowdoin began competing in the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Consortium, with Bates and Colby in 1970. The consortium became an athletic rivalry, and academic exchange program. The three schools produce numerous contentions in athletics, most notably a football championship game and the Chase Regatta.

21st century

In 2001, Barry Mills, class of 1972, was appointed as the fifth alumnus president of the college. On January 18, 2008, Bowdoin announced that it would be eliminating loans for all new and current students receiving financial aid, replacing those loans with grants beginning with the 2008–2009 academic year. President Mills stated, "Some see a calling in such vital but often low paying fields such as teaching or social work. With significant debt at graduation, some students will undoubtedly be forced to make career or education choices not on the basis of their talents, interests, and promise in a particular field, but rather on their capacity to repay student loans. As an institution devoted to the common good, Bowdoin must consider the fairness of such a result."

In February 2009, following a $10 million donation by Subway Sandwiches co-founder and alumnus Peter Buck, class of 1952, the college completed a $250-million capital campaign. Additionally, the college has also recently completed major construction projects on the campus, including a renovation of the college's art museum and a new fitness center named after Peter Buck.


Course distribution requirements were abolished in the 1970s, but were reinstated by a faculty majority vote in 1981, as a result of an initiative by oral communication and film professor Barbara Kaster. She insisted that distribution requirements would ensure students a more well-rounded education in a diversity of fields and therefore present them with more career possibilities. The requirements of at least two courses in each of the categories of Natural Sciences/Mathematics, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Humanities/Fine Arts, and Foreign Studies (including languages) took effect for the Class of 1987 and have been gradually amended since then. Current requirements require one course each in: Natural Sciences, Quantitative Reasoning, Visual and Performing Arts, International Perspectives and Exploring Social Differences. A small writing-intensive course, called a First Year Seminar, is also required.

In 1990, the Bowdoin faculty voted to change the four-level grading system to the traditional A, B, C, D and F system. The previous system, consisting of high honors, honors, pass and fail, was devised primarily to de-emphasize the importance of grades and to reduce competition. In 2002, the faculty decided to change the grading system so that it incorporated plus and minus grades. In 2006, Bowdoin was named a "Top Producer of Fulbright Awards for American Students" by the Institute of International Education.

Other notable Bowdoin faculty include (or have included): Edville Gerhardt Abbott, Charles Beitz, John Bisbee, Paul Chadbourne, Thomas Cornell, Kristen R. Ghodsee, Eddie Glaude, Joseph E. Johnson, Richard Morgan, Elliott Schwartz, and Scott Sehon.


In the 2017 edition of the U.S. News & World Report rankings, Bowdoin was ranked sixth among liberal arts colleges in the United States. In Forbes' 2016 college rankings, Bowdoin ranked 19th overall among all universities and colleges, and 7th among private liberal arts colleges.

Bowdoin was ranked first among all liberal arts colleges in the United States by Niche in 2017, above NESCAC rivals Williams College and Amherst College.

Based on student's SAT scores, Bowdoin is tied with Williams for 5th in Business Insider's smartest liberal arts colleges with an average score of 1435 for math and critical reading combined. Among all colleges, it is tied with Brown, Carnegie Mellon, and Williams for 22nd. Bowdoin was named "School of the Year" by Niche, and is ranked 1st among liberal arts colleges. The college was ranked 15th in the country by Washington Monthly.

In 2006 Newsweek described Bowdoin as a "New Ivy", one of a number of liberal arts colleges and universities outside of the Ivy League, and it has also been dubbed a "Hidden Ivy".


Bowdoin accepted 14.9% or 1,009 of the 6,790 applicants for the class of 2019. For the class of 2020, 6,788 students applied. U.S. News and World Report classifies Bowdoin as "most selective". Of enrolling students, 89% are in the top 10% of their high school graduating class. Although Bowdoin does not require the SAT in admissions, all students must submit a score upon matriculation. The middle 50% SAT range for the verbal and math sections of the SAT is 660–750 and 660–750, respectively — numbers of only those submitting scores during the admissions process. The middle 50% ACT range is 30–33.

The April 17, 2008, edition of The Economist noted Bowdoin in an article on university admissions: "So-called 'almost-Ivies' such as Bowdoin and Middlebury also saw record low admission rates this year (18% each). It is now as hard to get into Bowdoin, says the college's admissions director, as it was to get into Princeton in the 1970s." However, applicant levels have been declining since 2013. Many students apply for financial aid, and around 85% of those who apply receive aid. Bowdoin is a need-blind and a no-loans institution. While a significant portion of the student body hails from New England — including nearly 25% from Massachusetts and 10% from Maine — recent classes have drawn from an increasingly national and international pool. Although Bowdoin once had a reputation for homogeneity (both ethnically and socioeconomically), a diversity campaign has increased the percentage of students of color in recent classes to more than 31%. In fact, admission of minorities goes back at least as far as John Brown Russwurm 1826, Bowdoin's first African-American college graduate, and the third African-American graduate of any American college.

Student life

Bowdoin's dining services have been ranked #1 among all universities and colleges nationally by Princeton Review in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2016, with The New York Times reporting: "If it weren't for the trays, and for the fact that most diners are under 25, you'd think it was a restaurant." Bowdoin uses food from its organic garden in its two major dining halls, and every academic year begins with a lobster bake outside Farley Fieldhouse.

Recalling his days at Bowdoin in a recent interview, Professor Richard E. Morgan (Class of 1959) described student life at the then-all-male school as "monastic," and noted that "the only things to do were either work or drink." (This is corroborated by the Official Preppy Handbook, which in 1980 ranked Bowdoin the number two drinking school in the country, behind Dartmouth.) These days, Morgan observed, the college offers a far broader array of recreational opportunities: "If we could have looked forward in time to Bowdoin's standard of living today, we would have been astounded."

Since abolishing Greek fraternities in the late 1990s, Bowdoin has switched to a system in which entering students are assigned a "college house" affiliation correlating with their first-year dormitory. While six houses were originally established, following the construction of two new dorms, two were added effective in the fall of 2007, bringing the total to eight: Ladd (affiliated with Osher Hall), Baxter (West), Quinby (Appleton), MacMillan (Coleman), Howell (Hyde), Helmreich (Maine), Reed (Moore), and Burnett (Winthrop). The college houses are physical buildings around campus which host parties and other events throughout the year. Those students who choose not to live in their affiliated house retain their affiliation and are considered members throughout their Bowdoin career. Before the fraternity system was abolished in the 1990s, all the Bowdoin fraternities were co-educational (except for one unrecognized sorority and two unrecognized all-male fraternities).

Bowdoin's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1825. Those who have been inducted to the Maine chapter as undergraduates include Nathaniel Hawthorne (1825), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1825), Robert E. Peary (1877), Owen Brewster (1909), Harold Hitz Burton (1909), Paul Douglas (1913), Alfred Kinsey (1916), Thomas R. Pickering (1953), and Lawrence B. Lindsey (1976).


The largest student group on campus is the Outing Club, which leads canoeing, kayaking, rafting, camping and backpacking trips throughout Maine. Bowdoin's Board Game Club currently holds the largest email base of any student group. One of the school's two historic rival literary societies, The Peucinian Society, has recently been revitalized from its previous form. The Peucinian Society was founded in 1805. This organization counts such people as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Joshua Chamberlain amongst its former members, though these individuals originally belonged to the Athenian Society (the second society of the two historic groups). These literary and intellectual societies were the dominant groups on campus before they declined in popularity after the rise of Greek fraternities.

Bowdoin competes in the Standard Platform League of RoboCup as the Northern Bites, where teams compete with 5 autonomous Aldebaran Nao robots. Bowdoin won the world championship in RoboCup 2007, beating Carnegie Mellon University, and finished 2nd in the 2015 US Open.

Media and publications

Bowdoin's student newspaper, The Bowdoin Orient, is the oldest continuously published college weekly in the United States. The Orient was named the second best tabloid-sized college weekly at a Collegiate Associated Press conference in March 2007. Additionally, the school's literary magazine, The Quill, has been published since 1897. The Bowdoin Globalist, an international news, culture, and politics magazine affiliated with the Global21 organization of college magazines has been publishing since 2012. The Bowdoin Globalist transitioned to a digital-only platform in 2015. The college's radio station, WBOR, has been in operation since 1951. In 1999, The Bowdoin Cable Network was formed, producing a weekly newscast and several student created shows per semester.

A cappella

There are six a cappella groups on campus. The Meddiebempsters and the Longfellows are all-male, Miscellania is all-female, and BOKA and Ursus Verses are co-ed.

"The Longfellows" are the newer of the two all male groups. Founded in 2004, they trace their roots to the historic class of 1825 at Bowdoin, which graduated Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In 2011, they won their quarterfinal of the International Collegiate Championship of A Cappella, advancing them to the semifinals, as the only all-male group. The same year, they were in the final round of selection to be on NBC's "The Sing Off." In 2010 and again in 2013, they sang the national anthem at a Boston Celtics game. They have performed all over Maine and the Northeast.

"The Meddiebempsters" are the oldest of Bowdoin's six a cappella groups. Founded in the spring of 1937, the Meddies performed in USO shows after World War II.

"Miscellania" is the oldest all-female a cappella group at Bowdoin College. Miscellania was founded in 1972 as the female counterpart to the Meddiebempsters, shortly after women were admitted to Bowdoin. Since then, Miscellania has grown to be a part of the tradition of a cappella at Bowdoin College. Distinguishable by their black dresses, Miscellania has performed all over Maine and the Northeast, as well as down the East Coast on longer tours, and Aruba. In 2017, the group is celebrating its 40th anniversary.


In the months of November, December, and February in 2015, the college faced a string of alleged and confirmed rapes and sexual assaults. The reports of assault included a local registered sex offender breaking and entering into the college's Mayflower Apartments and raping a student, and a convicted sex offender photographing female students while showering or undressing. In response to events, Bowdoin requested that the Brunswick police increase patrols near the college and issued alerts to students, faculty, and staff. The previous summer a male student withdrew from the college after his arrest for the alleged rape of a female student; the college discontinued its investigation of the rape, passing the case along to the District Attorney's office. He was subsequently indicted for a crime lesser than the original rape charge (gross sexual assault). With a reported 17 rapes occurring in 2014, the college has stated that the increase in number is attributed to "new federal reporting rules and an increased awareness on campus."

On June 10, 2014, The New York Times, published an article on college's dismissal of the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship on the grounds that it was biased against homosexuality and beliefs on abstinence; the group has been barred from operating on campus.

On October 22, 2015, Bowdoin’s sailing team held a themed party that sparked issues of racism and cultural appropriation. The theme was characterized as "gangster-themed" featuring costumes that were stereotypical of black culture. This sparked a major debate on campus about racism, cultural stereotypes, and racial discrimination.

On February 20, 2016, Bowdoin students sent an email inviting each other to a "tequila-themed" party that featured Mexican-themed tapestries as well as students wearing sombreros, consuming tequila, assuming Mexican accents, and participating in other activities closely linked with Latin American culture. The email, party, and subsequent aftermath caused extended media coverage and backlash from students, and their administration citing the incident as "ethnic stereotyping" and "act of bias". The student government filed articles of impeachment against student representatives who participated in planning the party's activities, and the incident was covered by selected national news outlets, including The Washington Post, which ran three separate pieces regarding the incident.

Bowdoin Project

In April 2013, the college was at the center of National Association of Scholars's report entitled, "What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students." The report was later dubbed, "The Bowdoin Project" due to widespread media coverage. The report was a 359-page report that was financed at a cost of $100,000. The assessment criticized and denounced, in thorough detail, the college's academic program, sexual atmosphere, treatment of women and minorities, student and faculty diversity, drug and alcohol issues, student safety, and hazing, among twenty-six other categories. The report was rebutted by the at-the-time President Barry Mills, who called the assessment, "mean-spirited and personal."

Environmental record

Bowdoin College signed onto the American College and University President's Climate Commitment in 2007. The college followed through with a carbon neutrality plan released in 2009, with 2020 as the target year for carbon neutrality. According to the plan, general improvements to Maine's electricity grid will account for 7% of carbon reductions, commuting improvements will account for 1%, and the purchase of renewable energy credits will account for 41%. The college intends to reduce its own carbon emissions 28% by 2020, leaving the remaining 23% for new technologies and more renewable energy credits.

Coordinator of Sustainable Bowdoin Keisha Payson has acknowledged that achieving carbon neutrality by 2020 "might not be realistic." Bowdoin purchases its electricity from Central Maine Power. The college buys renewable energy credits to offset all of the related carbon emissions. According to the EPA's Green Power Partnership, 5.8% of Bowdoin's total electricity usage comes from green power. Bowdoin's facilities are heated by an on-campus heating plant which burns natural gas. In February 2013, the college announced that 1.4% of its endowment is invested in the fossil fuel industry. The disclosure was in response to students' calls to divest these holdings.

Between 2002 and 2008, Bowdoin College decreased its CO2 emissions by 40%. It achieved that reduction by switching from #6 to #2 oil in its heating plant, reducing the campus set heating point from 72 to 68 degrees, and by adhering to its own Green Design Standards in renovations. In addition, Bowdoin runs a single stream recycling program, and its dining services department has begun composting food waste and unbleached paper napkins. Bowdoin received an overall grade of "B-" for its sustainability efforts on the College Sustainability Report Card 2009 published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. In addition to various student run organizations, including Sustainable Bowdoin and the Bowdoin Organic Garden, the college's dining service regularly uses local products and annually invites local farmers to campus to discuss how local food products are incorporated into the daily menu for students.

In 2003, Bowdoin made a commitment to achieve LEED-certification for all new campus buildings. The college has since completed construction on Osher and West residency halls, the Peter Buck Center for Health & Fitness, and the Sidney J. Watson Arena, all of which have attained LEED or Silver LEED certification. The new dorms partially use collected rain water as part of an advanced flushing system.

In 2009, the college announced a detailed plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020 as a result of campus-wide conservation efforts and specific initiatives in its implementation plan. The plan includes the construction of a solar thermal system, part of the "Thorne Solar Hot Water Project"; cogeneration in the central heating plant (for which Bowdoin received $400,000 in federal grants); lighting upgrades to all campus buildings; and modern monitoring systems of energy usage on campus.


Museums on Bowdoin's campus include the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum. Notable Buildings include Massachusetts Hall, Hubbard Hall, the Parker Cleaveland House and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House.


Bowdoin has thirty varsity sports teams, and competes in the NCAA Division III New England Small College Athletic Conference, which also includes Amherst, Conn College, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, Tufts, Wesleyan, Williams. The college's rowing club competes in the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Chase Regatta annually. Bowdoin's mascot is the polar bear, the school's official colors white and black. The college also has intercollegiate and club teams in men's and women's fencing, men's and women's rowing, men's rugby, water polo, men's soccer, men's volleyball and men's and women's Ultimate.

Bowdoin's Men's Tennis won the NCAA college Division III Championship on May 25, 2016. In 2011, two Bowdoin players won the NCAA Men's Double title.

The Bowdoin sailing team competes in the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association. In 2014, the women's sailing team was ranked 2nd in the U.S. in a national poll by Sailing World.

The women's basketball team are 8-time NESCAC champions, holding a record 7-year streak from 2000-01 to 2006-07. The field hockey team are four-time NCAA National Champions; winning the title in 2007 (defeating Middlebury College), 2008 (defeating Tufts University), 2010 (defeating Messiah College) and 2013 (defeating Salisbury University). Head coach Nicky Pearson has been NESCAC coach of the year a record 7 times. Pearson has been recognized as the NCAA Division III coach of the year four times.

In 2012, the men's indoor track Distance Medley Relay Team won the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field National Championships.


In addition to several outdoor athletic fields (Pickard field & Whittier Field), the college's athletic facilities include:

  • Sidney J. Watson Ice Hockey Arena (2,300 capacity, LEED certification)
  • Buck Center for Health and Fitness (LEED certification)
  • Hubbard Grandstand and Whittier Field (9,000 capacity)
  • Leroy Greason Pool
  • Lubin Family Squash Center
  • Boathouses for sailing and rowing
  • Bowdoin alumni

    Famous Bowdoin graduates include:

    Bowdoin graduates have led all three branches of the federal government, including both houses of Congress. Franklin Pierce (1826) was America's fourteenth President; Melville Weston Fuller (1853) served as Chief Justice of the United States; Thomas Brackett Reed (1860) was twice elected Speaker of the House of Representatives; and Wallace H. White, Jr. (1899) and George J. Mitchell (1954) both served as Majority Leader of the United States Senate.

    Fictional character Dr. Derek Shepherd of the ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy was a graduate of Bowdoin, and sometimes pictured wearing a Bowdoin T-shirt on the show.

    Presidents of Bowdoin

    1. Joseph McKeen (1802–07)
    2. Jesse Appleton (1809–19)
    3. William Allen (1820–39)
    4. Leonard Woods (1839–66)
    5. Samuel Harris (1867–71)
    6. Joshua Chamberlain (1871–83)
    7. William DeWitt Hyde (1885–1917)
    8. Kenneth C.M. Sills (1918–52)
    9. James S. Coles (1952–67)
    10. Roger Howell, Jr. (1969–78)
    11. Willard F. Enteman (1978–80)
    12. A. LeRoy Greason (1981–90)
    13. Robert Hazard Edwards (1990–2000)
    14. Barry Mills (2001–2015)
    15. Clayton Rose (2015–present)


    Bowdoin College Wikipedia