When alumni walk in to Admissions, they take one look at the stained glass letters on the window behind me at the reception desk and say, “I remember when this was Deke. It definitely didn’t look like this.”
I have worked at the desk every Saturday since September 22. Last Saturday, November 17, was my last shift of the semester.
Before the lobby fills at 10:30 a.m. for the information session and tour, the mornings are quiet. The fireplaces flame cheerily on; parents of interviewees mill about, sipping complimentary coffee and reading the Orient front to back before meandering slowly over my way.
Parents and prospective students are especially adept at digging into the recesses of my memory, and often ask me to conjure up a coherent understanding of the sum of my miscellaneous ventures, musings and conversations over the past four years.
They approach the front desk and ask me, inquiringly, “What do you do here? What does after Bowdoin look like for you? Why Bowdoin?”
I gladly discuss my hopes and dreams for after graduation, and share my favorite ice cream flavor and the other important details of my life, but I always end on the fact that I am savoring my last few months here. If eight months studying abroad and in New York taught me anything, it’s that Bowdoin people are a special breed: A mix of humble, intelligent and driven people with an incredible zest for life. Back from globetrotting, I realized that a place where so many of these types congregate is unique indeed.
When prospective students walk through the door, their faces look so new. They turn to look at mom or dad or uncle or grandmother, sometimes just off into the distance, panicking over the existential question: “Did I forget to register online?”
I am sometimes frustrated that I cannot detail everyone and everything that contributes to my happiness here. In wanting to communicate so much more to the prospective students that walk into Admissions on Saturdays and in seeing the questioning looks on their faces, I am reminded how much Bowdoin is defined on promise.
Early one Friday morning, Mike Bottinelli ’13 and I took to the rocking chairs outside on the Admissions porch to wave Olivia Raisner ’15 off on her tour.
“We’ve been here a long time,” Mike said. “It’s been a good run.”
I thought to myself what different runs we surely have had. But there we were, sitting on the porch, agreeing that, yes, what a good run it has been.
Bowdoin is not in the brochures, nor in the photos that play on the wide-screen TV in the Admissions lobby. Bowdoin lies in the promise that each person can make his way through the College however he chooses. While everyone takes a singular path through the College, we all share a sense of attachment to this place; we've all having had, for the most part, good runs. In the case of the alumni who lived in the Admissions house when it was home to DKE, the joy they expressed at returning to the building, though it's now completely transformed, seemed to me the joy of a "good run."
Now that my tenure working the Admissions reception desk is over, I’ll enjoy reclaiming leisurely Saturday brunches in Thorne. But nothing can replace the feeling of waking up before most of campus to open Admissions at the bright hour of 8:15 a.m., facing the promise of a new day at the College.