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Polar bear for life: Bowdoin student to dining staff member

March 31, 2017

Jenny Ibsen
HOW YA DOIN' TODAY? Cashier Dave Luce ’62 returned to the coast of Maine years after graduating from Bowdoin. He is now a cashier at Thorne Dining Hall.

Often sporting an Aloha shirt and always a pleasant smile, Cashier Dave Luce welcomes all Thorne breakfast goers each weekday morning. Luce has a particularly special relationship with the Bowdoin students whose OneCards he swipes, likely because he once was a Bowdoin student himself. Luce graduated from Bowdoin in 1962, back when the school was still all male and the David Saul Smith Union was home to the College’s track and field events.

Luce was born in West Boylston, which is outside of Worcester, Massachusetts. Since 1919, his grandmother owned a cottage on the ocean in Wells, Maine, so he grew up visiting Maine each summer.

Luce said his favorite thing about Maine is, “just the way of life.”

After graduating from Bowdoin, Luce became the owner of an insurance agency in Hanover, Massachusetts. He also met his wife, Susan, in 1982, and married her three years later.

“We both lived in the same apartment complex and every Memorial Day they’d have a pool opening party and we ended up sitting next to each other,” he said. “That’s how it got started.”

When it came time to retire in 2006, Mr. and Mrs. Luce decided to move north to Harpswell, where they still live today. He has been a bartender for Bowdoin functions for four years and a cashier at Thorne for three.

In his free time, he serves as the treasurer for two nonprofits, Harpswell Fire and Rescue and Harpswell Neck Fire and Rescue.

Luce reminisced on the vast changes Bowdoin has experienced since the time he was here.

“Fifty-five years ago was a long time. When I got here, the old hockey rink was two years old and we thought that was great. Basketball was played up in Sargent [Gymnasium] and, you know, things were far more rudimentary,” he said.

One of the main differences Luce has noticed has been the change in drinking culture. He explained that when he was a student, parties were only on Friday and Saturday nights and never on Thursdays or other weeknights.

“Because we didn’t have any girls around we didn’t have anything [to do]. So you studied from Sunday night to Friday noon, and then you raised hell,” he said.

The students often had good relationships with female students at nearby schools like Bates.

“We’d say, ‘who wants to come to party?’ and we’d send four or five cars down and transport ‘em in,” said Luce. “But they all had to be back by midnight.”

Luce also explained how different Ivies Weekend is today compared to when he was a student.

“It was far more formal. The dates would arrive on Friday because they all had to come by train in those days. And then Friday night was always a big dinner.”

A couple of artists Luce remembers performing include Stan Kenton and Duke Ellington.

The following Saturday, the tradition was for all students to take a trip to the beach.

“We froze, but we went to the beach,” said Luce.

Luce played football for Bowdoin for three weeks before dislocating his shoulder, which ended his football career. After that, he still enjoyed supporting the team.

“Before every football game we’d have a bonfire out behind [Hubbard Hall]. I don’t think you can do that now,” he said. “You know, there was quite a bit of camaraderie with just 800 [students].”

Today, Luce remains an avid supporter for Bowdoin’s sports teams.

“A lot of the students that I’ve formed relationships with, they all want [me] to go to their sports games and they know whether you’ve been there or whether you haven’t,” he said.

Luce and his wife have watched the women’s basketball games since the couple moved to the area. Now they support a wide variety of other Bowdoin teams as well.

“I’ve never been to volleyball, and they know it,” he said.

Luce said his favorite thing about working at Bowdoin is the students.

“You know, some you talk to a lot and others you don’t talk to, but just getting to know ’em—by the time people get to be seniors, they’re much more outgoing and you form a little better relationship than you do with the freshmen and sophomores,” Luce said.

“Every class is a little different,” he said.

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