BOSTON?It was billed as the start of the capital campaign, but it turned out to be a grand celebration.

After all, there was much to celebrate?$147 million?at the unveiling of The Bowdoin Campaign at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on Friday.

Campaign co-chairs Deborah Jensen Barker '80 and Robert White '77 announced to cheers that the College had already raised nearly 59 percent of its total goal during the campaign's "silent phase." The College hopes to raise the $250 million by June 2009.

Approximately 550 people attended the launch, Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs Scott Hood said. Most attendees were alumni. Some students, faculty, and parents were also invited to the Kennedy Library for the launch.

The College had transformed the library into a place filled with Bowdoin imagery for the night.

Magnified campus photographs, framed in illuminated boxes that would be too tall for a typical building, stood in the lobby. The gift shop disappeared, completely covered by murals that showed scenes of Bowdoin and advertised the campaign's slogans: "The Place That Makes Us" and "The Place We Make."

The evening's events began in the library's glass-enclosed, 115-foot-high pavilion overlooking Boston Harbor and the city's skyline. Attendees could choose from custom-made sushi, grilled salmon, and hand-carved beef?and select their drinks from among the pavilion's three open bars.

After the reception, attendees moved to the library's Smith Hall for the evening's main event, a theatrical presentation about Bowdoin and the campaign. The presentation included the announcement of the $147 million figure. Senior Vice President for Planning and Administration and Chief Development Officer William Torrey said in an e-mail to the Orient that there has not been any significant change in the amount raised since the launch.

Emcees Anthony DiNicola '07 and Emily Goodridge '08 provided commentary throughout the presentation, which included speeches, videotaped interviews, musical performances, a dance number by the student group Anokha?and a dancing polar bear mascot.

In most of the speeches and interviews, alumni reflected on the role that Bowdoin played in their lives.

"I am what Bowdoin has made me," Geoffrey Canada '74 said.

Canada told a story about his senior year at Bowdoin, when he was unsure of what to do after Bowdoin and consulted a faculty member. The professor brought him to a nearby stream to show him the salmon. A confused Canada didn't know what to make of the visit?until the professor mentioned that the salmon that swam into one of the tributaries would end up at a salmon factory.

The point, Canada said: "There are places in America where children's lives are determined by chance."

Canada went on to become the CEO and president of the Harlem Children's Zone, which serves 8,600 at-risk children in New York City.

The video presentation included reflections on Bowdoin by a range of notable alumni, including former Senator George Mitchell '54, ABC News "Nightline" co-anchor Cynthia McFadden '78, and investor Stanley Druckenmiller '75. Most spoke about the College's core values.

"The capital campaign is obviously about making money, but this is a way for us to really reconfirm what the College is all about," President Barry Mills told the Orient.

In interviews, alumni at the event emphasized the importance of the campaign's primary focus on financial aid. The College hopes to add $76.55 million to the financial aid endowment. Academic affairs priorities, including the endowment of 12 new faculty positions, rank a close second, totaling $69.5 million.

"Financial aid?that's the big thing. That will make the difference to so many students," Elliott Kanbar '56, a private equity investor, told the Orient.

Alan Titus '62, a member of the campaign's steering committee, told the Orient that the "the world is changing so dramatically" and the campaign will "meet the changes of that world."

"The campaign is going to do magnificent things for Bowdoin," he said.

Jay Green '60, an overseer emeritus, has been involved with four capital campaigns.

While previous campaigns have focused on building projects, "this campaign is about people," he said.

He noted that the drive is "very sophisticated in terms of how it's beginning."

Torrey said in an e-mail to the Orient that Bowdoin has not yet calculated the cost of the event. He did note that the College intended to spend less at this launch than the 1995 event. He said that the College was successful in having an event "that was not lavish, but first-rate."

The launch event also included the afternoon session "Voices from the Classroom," which was held at the Seaport World Trade Center. Seven faculty members gave presentations on six subjects, including a lecture titled "Why study the Horror Film," by Associate Professor of English Aviva Briefel.

Associate Professor of Physics Mark Battle drew cheers when he showed up at his lecture on climate change in multiple layers of winter clothing and long underwear. Battle frequently does work at the North Pole and South Pole.

Concurrent with the academic event, the Board of Trustees held a portion of its three-day fall meeting at the Langham Hotel.

At the evening launch event, Titus said the campaign committee had a "wonderful response" to the campaign, and predicted that it would meet its $250 million goal.

"I think we'll be successful?there's no doubt in my mind," he said.

Interim Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Sarah Begin '05, who was staffing the event, said, "The people who are here tonight just love this place."

"It's great when you love Bowdoin so much, and you get to come back and promote this wonderful place," she said. "It's the greatest job in the world."