In recognition of Bowdoin's ties to Maine's Franco American roots, the College is holding a three-day symposium entitled "Celebrating the Franco American Heritage of Maine." With visitors expected from Canada, New England, and Maine, the symposium will feature panel discussions, a documentary, and a closer look into the Franco American lifestyle.
"Bowdoin is an elite institution, but it hasn't forgotten its roots," said Professor of Government Chris Potholm.
"It reaches out to all ethnic groups and it hasn't forgotten about its people in Maine," he said. "We want to celebrate all the Franco American contributions to Maine, America, and, of course, to Bowdoin."
Potholm has been involved in the planning of the symposium, and teaches a course in Maine Politics emphasizing Franco Americans influence in Maine.
"While we celebrate and are quick to embrace diversity, we forget that there's a very unique population here in our midst that built the society of Maine," said Juliana L'Heureux, author of the column "Les Franco Americans" for the Portland Press Herald.
"They really provided the industrial base that made Maine into a state," she said.
Potholm said people do not realize Bowdoin's connection to the French. James Bowdoin III, who chartered the College in 1794, was the great-grandson of a Huguenot Frenchman, Pierre Baudouin, and the son of the former Governor of Massachusetts, James Bowdoin II.
Baudouin moved to Maine in 1685, shortly after other Quebecois settlers moved to North America in the early 1600s.
The symposium will feature a series of three discussions and a documentary film, and will run from November 13 to 15.
The first panel discussion will be held at 7 p.m. in Thorne Hall's Daggett Lounge, on Monday, November 13. Severin Beliveau, president of the American section of the Forum Francophone des Affaires, a nonprofit that encourages business between the US and Francophone countries, and partner at a Portland law firm, will moderate the discussion titled "Tactics and Success in Franco Upward Mobility."
Beliveau said his panelists grew up in French-speaking households and will discuss the difficulties they faced in the business world as Franco Americans. They are founders, presidents, and leaders in their respective companies, he explained.
"We want to make the audience aware of the very strong presence in Maine of a large Franco American community. The fact that they have made, and will continue to make, significant contributions is critical," he said.
The second panel discussion, "Celebrating the Political and Legal Dimensions of the Franco American Experience," will be held in Daggett Lounge at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Potholm will moderate the discussion.
Wednesday will feature a showing of "Reveil?Waking Up French", a documentary by Ben Levine, at 3 p.m. in Daggett Lounge. The film focuses on New England Franco Americans rediscovering their French language and culture.
Directly after the film, L'Heureux, who studies Franco American stories and with her family and discusses them in her column and on her Web site, will moderate the discussion "Cultural and Artistic Dimensions of the Franco American Experience." She said that the original New England settlers were elite of the French society and brought support for the arts.
She said that it is "extraordinary" for "Bowdoin College to be recognizing the culture with this event."
Brandon Bouchard '07, a Franco American student from northern Maine, said that the symposium shows how Bowdoin supports Maine's culture.
"I think Bowdoin needs as many opportunities as possible for students to learn about the culture in the area," he said. "It's a great chance to come and hear the academic stance on everything and for students to learn something."
Potholm said he is excited about the event and looks forward to similar commemorations.
"There is no question that the president of Bowdoin is committed to these types of celebration for all other types of diversity," he said. "This is a great chance for Bowdoin's founding and Maine to come together with emphasis on a minority group that's not always celebrated."