Bowdoin will award its highest honor, the Bowdoin Prize, to Leon Gorman '56, L.L. Bean Chairman and Trustee Emeritus of the College today.

In 1960, Gorman joined his grandfather's mail-order business in a time of unforeseen decline and considerable challenges.

Gorman's grandfather, Leon Leonwood Bean, founder of L.L. Bean revolutionized outdoorswear by creating The Maine Hunting Shoe, a boot with a rubber sole and stitched leather that protected hunters from the dampness of the Maine woods.

Bean quickly built up his company's success and transformed it into one of America's most respected and iconic outdoors brands.

However, when Gorman became president of L.L. Bean in 1967, sales had plummeted and management was in dire need of reorganization. Gorman took over the company. His leadership helped reinvent the brand from a ma-and-pop catalog to a billion dollar business.

Gorman has been generous in giving back to the College; he served as a Trustee of the College in 1994 and was elected Trustee Emeritus in 2002.

By the 1980s, the company reestablished itself as reliable source for outdoorswear and Gorman strove to continue the legacy of L.L. Bean's pledge to optimal customer service and high quality products.

His donations have included the establishment of The Bowdoin College Coastal Studies Center as well as significant contributions to the academic program and financial aid. Gorman could not be reached for comment.

Senior Vice President for Planning & Development and Secretary of the College Bill Torrey referred to Gorman as a "very intelligent, very thoughtful, self-effacing alumnus, committed to the state of Maine and preserving the environment."

Under Gorman's direction, L.L. Bean has awarded $3 million over five years to the National Park Foundation, Appalachian Trial Conference, and the State of Maine.

Gorman's dedication to stewardship and the environment is noteworthy. Danica Loucks '13 commented on the impressive qualities of Gorman.

"He balances business and is still in tune with the outdoors...Bowdoin has awarded an alumnus who has managed to incorporate [business and preservation] all these different aspects."

"The people who work at L.L. Bean live the brand," she added. "They are stewards of nature."

Every five years, the Trustee Committee convenes and honors an alumnus or faculty member with the Bowdoin Prize.

The citation of the prize online reads that the honor is bestowed upon "that graduate or faculty, who shall have made the most distinctive contribution in any field of human endeavor."

When Katie Kinkel '13 was asked about the importance of the prize, she commented that the award served as a celebration of the principles and ethos of the College.

"Acknowledging recipients shows that Bowdoin takes pride in our education. And I imagine they must choose from a diverse group of people," she said.

"It shows how the college is intrigued by our success and how it relates to the concept of the common good. I think it is right for academic institutions to honor those who have been most successful at what they do."

Torrey characterized Gorman as a man of few words, who is highly revered by those in his community and in the state of Maine.

"He's a quiet man but when he speaks he always has something thoughtful to say," he said. "He is held in high-regards in the state of Maine. All the business and political leaders know him and go to him for advice."

"He personifies the best of Maine." Torrey added.

Gorman will address the college during a special ceremony to be held in Pickard Theater on Friday, October 1, at 8 p.m.