In the first of this year's Board of Trustees meetings, all eyes focused on the sorry state of the economy and its impact on Bowdoin.
"This meeting was dominated by discussion of what's happening in the financial market and what impact it may have on the College and its finances," said Senior Vice President for Planning & Development and Secretary of the College Bill Torrey. "Nearly all of it was talking about how we're going to prepare ourselves."
After assembling on campus Thursday, the board members broke into committees, and presented their work at a plenary session on Friday to the rest of the board.
On Saturday, the morning was devoted to another plenary session on the most important issue identified the day before: the economy.
According to Torrey, "the board charged the President and administration with looking at all of its sources of revenue." The goal of this analysis was to identify "the things we need to cut back on to protect financial aid, protect academic programs, and protect the Bowdoin experience."
Bowdoin's current economic situation is somewhat misleading due to the fact that its operating budget reflects the state of the endowment a year ago when the market was considerably less turbulent. Next year, Torrey said, will be interesting because the budget will begin to reflect the economy's decline.
On Saturday, the Board attended a post-dinner panel discussion featuring top-level financial advisers, including Lawrence B. Lindsey, the former Director of the National Economic Council (2001-2002), the former Assistant to the President on Economic Policy for President George W. Bush, and current President and Chief Executive Officer of The Lindsey Group, a global economic advisory firm based in Washington, D.C. William A. Daley of JP Morgan Chase & Co.'s executive committee also participated during the panel discussion.
According to Torrey, Lindsey said that in terms of the nation's economy, "the immediate future is bleak."
"He's not optimistic at the moment," said Torrey.
"I think the reaction of the Trustees was that they've seen times at Bowdoin where the College was not poised to be able to take this kind of economic stress," said President Mills in an interview on Monday. "And that because we are in a position of strength...this kind of economic stress is something that doesn't intimidate anyone, and doesn't raise questions about the strength and vitality of Bowdoin."
According to a letter from Mills, the good news is that the college is 97 percent of the way to completing its $250 million capital campaign, and has excellent staff overseeing Bowdoin's finance and investments, as well as a solid base of loyal alumni and parents.
All Bowdoin can do, said Torrey, is to "take each day as it comes and prepare ourselves for the future by looking at everything we do."
-Nick Day contributed to this report.