In the fall of 1964, Bowdoin’s president James Stacy Coles wrote in delight to a friend about the seniors he noticed around the College’s new Senior Center, the 16-story tower that would later bear his name.
“[They] seem to walk about with greater pride,” he wrote. “They have spontaneously spruced up their personal appearance.”
Last fall marked 50 years since the completion and opening of the Senior Center, now known as Coles Tower. Since then, many things have changed on campus. Just as it did in 1964, though, the Tower primarily houses seniors and plays a significant role in the cultural fabric of the College.
Originally, the Tower was conceived as part of a larger program called the Senior Commons. In a senior thesis tracing the history of the program, Benjamin Brennan ’08 wrote that it was “an effort to bring about sweeping social and curricular changes at what was regarded as a very traditional school.”
This was a version of Bowdoin that would be hardly recognizable to students today: a conservative, all-male institution where the vast majority of social life happened inside fraternities. Classes were held every day but Sunday, and women were never allowed in campus dorms.
The goal was to remake the experience of Bowdoin’s upperclassmen, loosening these social restrictions and emphasizing engagement with the outside world. The College felt that its seniors were spending too much time with younger students in fraternities, and hoped to bring them out of fraternity houses and into more contact with one another in the Tower.
“There was this idea that we wanted to find a center for communal life and intellectual life for senior men,” said Senior Lecturer in Environmental Studies Jill Pearlman.
To accomplish this, the College created new, interdisciplinary senior seminars that cut across Bowdoin’s traditional distribution requirements. They arranged for scholars-in-residence to live among seniors, and planned a new dining hall where they would eat together. Seeing this as an innovative, modernizing program, they wanted a physical structure to match, one where seniors would both live and study together.
Hugh Stubbins, a prominent modernist architect, designed the new Senior Center. While the building was the first example of modern architecture at Bowdoin, many of the College’s peer institutions, and larger universities like Harvard and Princeton, had built their own modernist buildings over the previous two decades.
At Bowdoin, students had long desired more modern facilities. An Orient editorial from 1945 lamented that “the only things modern on our campus are our toilets and kitchens.” “College campuses are architecturally conservative—rarely does anything new happen at them,” said Pearlman.
When colleges do decide to pursue new architectural styles, though, the trends often spread quickly.
“Everyone was getting their own modernist building after the war,” she added.
Construction began in 1963. On January 20, 1964, while the fourteenth and fifteenth floors were under construction, an electrical fire engulfed the top of the building. Secretary of Development and College Relations John Cross ’76 was then a fourth-grader living in Brunswick. In 2011, he discussed his memories of the fire in a piece for the Bowdoin Daily Sun.
“We slogged through the slush left by rains that had fallen on heavy snow and joined a crowd of students and neighbors in staring up at the tower and the fire crews that battled to contain the blaze,” he wrote.
Surprisingly, the fire, whose repairs cost $200,000, did not much delay construction. The building opened on schedule for the fall semester in 1964. At the time, it was the tallest building in Maine (it now ranks second, after Portland’s Franklin Towers).
While the physical component of the Senior Center program appeared to be a success, many students saw it as an effort to weaken fraternities and feelings about the academic components were mixed. The College soon struggled to fill senior seminars.
Following the resignation of the Center’s original director, history professor Bill Whiteside, in 1970, the decrease in interest among seniors meant that younger students were occupying many of its rooms.
“It was kind of a model that worked for a little while… But by the time I was a senior, it wasn’t exclusively a residence for seniors any more,” said Cross. “It became sort of another dorm.”
By 1980, with the curriculum largely defunct and the building populated by students from a range of class years, the Senior Center was renamed Coles Tower, after the man who had presided over its creation.
Cross said the name change was “a recognition that the Senior Center program had been replaced by a more flexible curriculum.”
Coles Tower Today
Having outlived its original purpose and numerous subsequent architectural movements, Coles Tower fills a far different role than it did at its creation.
“It still stands out. It’s kind of on its own little island,” Pearlman said. “Like many modernist buildings, it hasn’t aged very well.”
Pearlman was optimistic, though, about the renovations currently taking place.
Today, the Tower is central to the social life of many students in a way that few in the heyday of fraternities would have anticipated.
“The tower is the hub of social life for a lot of seniors,” wrote Matt Friedland ’15, a Tower resident, in an email to the Orient. “It houses a solid amount of the senior class, so a lot of events both during the week and on the weekends happen in the tower.”
“It would be the place from which the Bowdoin Bubble, if it existed, would originate,” he wrote.“It’s definitely a social hotspot,” said Lela Garner ’16, another resident of the Tower. “It’s really easy to access other rooms, not like in Brunswick or the freshman dorms where you have to go and knock on everyone’s door.”
However, the social atmosphere dissuades some students from living in Coles as well.
“It seems a bit too chaotic and hectic for me. I need a quiet space,” said Bintou Kunjo ’15, who lives on School Street. “I think it’s party central.”
While the senior seminars of the 1960s are long gone, classes are still taught at the top floor of the Tower. Visiting Assistant Professor of English Morten Hansen has chosen the classroom in each of his two semesters at Bowdoin.
“The view provides a pretty backdrop and counterpoint to discussions and lectures without being a distraction,” he wrote in an email to the Orient. “My sense is that most students like having classes up there overlooking the campus and the surrounding area.”
Many residents appreciate the building’s social life considerably more than its architecture, however.
“I didn’t love it at first, because it felt quite institutional,” said Garner. “When I walk into my home, I don’t want to see cement walls and lots of doors.”
“It’s definitely as comfortable and home-y as you make it, but you have to put in a good amount of effort to make it look nice on the inside,” wrote Hallie Bates ’15 in an email to the Orient.
Despite reservations among students about the building itself, the Tower’s status as a central location for seniors seems to be having a resurgence.
In Fall 2006, 22 percent of the apartments in the Tower were occupied by quads of all seniors. This past fall, that number had risen to 70 percent.
Associate Director of Housing Operations Lisa Rendall said that it is typically one of the first housing options to fill up in the lottery, along with Harpswell Apartments and the quads in Chamberlain Hall.
‘I Am Bowdoin’ continues fight against bias in the community
The dialogue about difference and bias at Bowdoin will continue on Sunday, and students and administrators are hard at work to ensure the conversation is not silenced by the end of the school year. "I Am Bowdoin" leaders have organized a nighttime walk around campus and into town entitled "Belonging in Brunswick," and they are hoping for a strong turnout.
College reflects on a successful Ivies
As the campus recuperates from another Ivies, students and administrators alike are reflecting on the highs and lows of the weekend. From Thursday's Racer X concert to Pinestock on Saturday, many agree that this year's springtime celebration went off without a major hitch. The weekend's events were a culmination of planning and coordination by the Entertainment Board (E-Board), Dining Service, Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) and the Office of Safety and Security.
Trustees look to finalize new comprehensive fee for 2011-12
The comprehensive fee to attend Bowdoin will be going up. Just how much, however, remains to be seen. When the Board of Trustees meets next weekend, voting on and accepting a comprehensive fee for fiscal year (FY) 2012 will be one of the major tasks on its itinerary.
Community reacts to Bin Laden’s death
For a generation growing up in the shadow of September 11, the death of Osama Bin Laden is a watershed moment—the figure so often portrayed as the epitome of evil is no more. Though many American students felt closure and celebrated the death of Bin Laden, many others felt deep ambivalence about the event and its potential consequences.
IT and SWAT launch the ‘Orbit’ to mixed reviews from students
After a year of work, Information Technology (IT) and the Student Web Advisory Team (SWAT) have officially launched the redesigned student digest, the Bowdoin Orbit. Although still in its trial period, the Bowdoin Orbit will eventually phase out the Student Digest. It will be married with a gateway that boasts discussion boards and a newsfeed compilation from student blogs and websites.
In break with recent tradition, Phase II only sparsely attended
Toby Zitsman '13 decided to spend Tuesday night on a couch in Moulton Union's lobby in hopes of being the first in line for Wednesday's Phase II course registration, which began at 7:30 a.m. As it happened, his desperate efforts were unnecessary. "I slept over on one of the couches, but I didn't really need to," said Zitsman, who turned out to be the only person to camp out in a break with the tradition of recent years, when numerous students elected to sleep in Moulton Union on the night before Phase II registration.
MCC awards honor community service
Community service and civic participation are deeply ingrained in the Bowdoin ethos. In a testament to these principles, Samantha Collins '11, Sarah Pritzker '11 and Associate Professor of Education Charles Dorn were recently honored by the Maine Campus Compact (MCC) for their ongoing commitment to these pillars of the College.
BSG convenes for final meeting of the spring
Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) convened on Wednesday for its final meeting of the 2010-2011 academic year. BSG dealt with a proposed name change to the "Vice President for Facilities" position. The proposal would change the name to "Vice President for Facilities and Sustainability," reaffirming the College's stance on reducing its environmental footprint.
Bowdoin Brief: Chapel bells ring through the night in suspected Ivies prank
The campus came alive with the sound of music last Saturday night with an unexpected recital of the Chapel bells. In what appears to be an Ivies prank, an unidentified person entered the Chapel and set off the bells at approximately 1:30 a.m., causing them to ring for roughly 30 minutes until 2 a.m.
Bowdoin Brief: Renowned concussion expert to visit campus on May 13
Concussion expert Chris Nowinski of the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) will speak on the treatment, prevention and subject of head injuries on Friday, May 13 in Pickard Theater. Nowinski, author of "Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis," is co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at the Boston University School of Medicine and was an All-Ivy football player during his time at Harvard.
Editorial: What goes around
To the chagrin of many seniors, graduation approaches with haste. For many of us, this is a bittersweet time—we are eagerly looking to the future while also reflecting on the four years we have spent here. Bowdoin has been our home, and it is hard to part ways.
The Cold, Hardt, Truth: Branch out of usual dining routines and eat with someone new
"Hi, do you mind if I join you?" Those were the words of one stranger at lunch this Monday, and they definitely caught my lunch partner and me by surprise. At Bowdoin, we have a knack for falling into routines. We find a place where we are comfortable, and we do not often venture out of it. Be it a cozy chair at the Union where we go to study every night, or a carrel in the stacks where we can block out distractions and work until Security kicks us out, we find out what works and we keep doing it.
Southpaw: Bin Laden’s death provides limited resolution
Just over two years into his term in office, President Obama is finally having his moment. He circumvented the state laws in Hawaii last week to release his long-form birth certificate, a major coup against the birther contingent that had been gaining momentum again through the inane ramblings of Donald Trump. A trump card indeed.
Brunswick displayed patience during Ivies
To the Editors: I would like to take this opportunity to ask all my friends and supporters to call off the wildly successful boycott of the Brunswick community I proposed in my hugely popular November 5 letter, "Brunswick community intolerant of students." Though we will never be certain our point has been made, at this point the human toll has simply become too much for me to ask you to continue. We've had a good run.
- April 29
Editorial: Spending summer
Summer just is not what it used to be. The relaxing days at the beach are, for many of us, traded in for khakis and a water cooler. Though we are still weeks away from temperatures above 70 degrees, the scramble for a summer job, internship or activity is underway in full force.
- April 29
The Bowdoin Project: Klingenstein defends Claremont Review essay, responds to criticism
In "A Golf Story," which appeared recently in the Claremont Review of Books, I questioned whether President Barry Mills is serious about wanting more intellectual diversity at Bowdoin. The essay generated mostly smoke, but amid the smoke there lie important questions.
How intellectually diverse is Bowdoin today? Not very, if political party affiliation is any indication. Only Professor of Social Sciences Jean Yarbrough in her April 22 op-ed "Bowdoin should examine its lack of diversity" challenged my claim that no more than 4 percent of the Bowdoin faculty is Republican. She thinks my figure is probably too high.
But perhaps there is no need to count Republican noses, for, as a number of my critics pointed out, party affiliation may not be the best measure of what I am calling "intellectual diversity." OK. So what then do we mean by the term and how might it be measured?
- April 29
Half-Assed: Trump’s race to the White House
While election season seems far off, possible Republican challengers to President Barack Obama have already begun posturing for the 2012 election. President Obama's term in office has been disastrous for the economy. His administration has not effectively lowered unemployment and has contributed to the explosion of the national deficit. The stimulus bill and Obamacare have both been tremendous failures, costing far too much and distancing America from its core free market principles. At this point, I have found it essentially impossible to disagree with the Republicans on these points. It's indisputable; Obama needs to go.
- April 29
Yarbrough inaccurately depicts college diversity
To the Editors: How does Professor of Social Sciences Jean Yarbrough conclude that the college lacks "intellectual and political" diversity ("Bowdoin should examine its lack of diversity," April 22, 2011)?
- April 29
Country First: Republicans struggling to find ideal candidate
As the summer approaches and edges closer to next year's presidential campaign, the opportunity to charter a new course for the party has arisen. Thus far, polls consistently show Republicans thoroughly unhappy, unimpressed and unengaged with the list of likely, and even far-fetched, candidates for the party's nomination. Each of them has been trying to lay claim to the Reagan-mantle of conservatism, one that embraces social, fiscal and foreign policy conservatism.
- April 29
The Foreign Exchange: Bowdoin’s mission to guarantee student happiness
In the days leading up to Ivies, some of my less party-oriented friends have started to grumble about the perceived waste of resources that is Ivies. The complaints usually go something like: "Why should we be paying for these bands to come, and why should Bowdoin allow students to use their land and money so they can blackout all weekend?"
Director of athletics connects to coaches, athletes
While many jobs at the College are predictable and patterned, there are some that go off of the beaten path. With the inherent unpredictability of sports, it is no surprise that Director of Athletics Jeff Ward has a different schedule each day. For Ward, days frequently start early and run late. Overtime can literally mean staying to watch the overtime period of a game—and this is one of the things he likes best.
Year in Review: Looking back at the 2010-2011 academic year
The 2010-2011 academic year had the usual ups and downs—transports, thefts, a national championship, Meatless Monday, a salary thaw, a notable bias incident and nice weather for Ivies. These stories, along with many others, are chronicled in this summary of a year of Orient articles.
Department prizes vary for each
Scholarly excellence can be rewarded in a variety of ways. If you are a chemistry major, your possible prizes range from a certificate to a Merck Index. On the other hand, if you are majoring in government and legal studies, you can apply for the Philo Sherman Bennett Prize Fund and, if successful, could walk away with close to $200. "There is no 'one size fits all' for departmental prizes," said Senior Vice President for Administration and Treasurer Katy Longley. "First, the terms of the prize may vary; one fund may designate the size of the prize, and another may leave the size of the prize to the discretion of the department. Second, some prizes, such as certain book awards, carry no monetary value."
The Ethicist: Exploring the ethics of events and networking
I am the leader of a large campus organization. We are often asked to support or co-sponsor events organized by other organizations and individuals. We were recently asked to support an interesting event which, in my opinion, was not going to be popular. It was clear that no one would come. I, for one, would rather have spent my Friday night elsewhere. Was it wrong to agree to support the event if I didn't think it would be well-received?
All the Brews That's Fit to Drink: Bad brews for Bears: the popular college beers to avoid at all costs
As your humble columnist, I feel as though I've tried my best to steer all those who read my article towards beer bliss. Even in my piece discussing the finer points of malt liquor, I made an honest attempt to distinguish those brews that rose above the swill and reached some sort of relatively elevated status.
Fashion Sense & Sensibility: Mixing personal tastes to create a unique look on campus and beyond
Because online shopping is my source of inspiration for this column—though this time I was shopping for Mother's Day gifts, I swear—I happily landed upon the Free People website (freepeople.com). The home page has the title "Shop by Girl," and shows five different girls underneath with whom you can identify. Ginger is "confident, sensual, and a flirt," and Sandy is the "beach girl, easy-going and effortless," while Meadow is "bohemian, a free-spirit and creative." Candy is the "romantic, sweet and girly" one and then there's Lou, the "tomboy, adventurous and fearless." What I find ironic about trying to categorize Free People shoppers into these separate identities is that the brand itself is a total convergence of all of these personalities. The lines between these girls are blurred by the brand itself, as Free People serves someone who believes that she could be all of these attributes.
- April 29
Seniors design Free Time app to simplify scheduling
The question, "when are you free?" never seems to have a quick and easy answer. Seniors Ben Johnson, Nathan Merritt and Houston Kraft may have found a solution to this problem, however, with their new iPhone app, Free Time. "It basically looks at your calendar from a new perspective," said Kraft. "It imports the calendar from your phone, and shows the blocks of free time when you are available, and you can quickly share those with people."
- April 29
Chow Maine: Flipside’s fresh ingredients make it Midcoast’s best pizza
In one of my first articles, I dethroned The Cabin, in Bath, from its widely accepted position as the best pizza joint in mid-coast Maine. While it has its charm, the pizza at the Cabin is certainly nothing to write home about. It seems only fitting then, that in my last article I offer up an alternative for Bowdoin's pizza-lovers. In the search for the perfect pizza pie, Brunswick's Flipside delivers (figuratively speaking).
- April 29
Peer Health: Ivies wisdom for hard alcohol, mixed drinks
In my last installment of the year, I'm going to talk about something I am sure none of you were expecting: Ivies. Surprised? I think not. But there may be a bit of health confusion on the topic. We are all receiving mixed messages about our health, safety and school rules at this time. Ivies can be a lot of fun, but it can also end up not being that fun if you are having trouble navigating the surreal quality of the event and walking the line of how much is too much.
- April 22
Alumni celebrate Ivies Weekend on the West Coast
While Bowdoin students celebrate Ivies on the football field, alums in San Francisco will be having a party of their own. Nalgenes, Bowdoin logs, and the "spirit of Ivies" will appear on the West Coast this Saturday for the first ever San Francisco Ivies, an event organized by alumni from the Class of 2008. "We're extremely fortunate to have a really huge Bowdoin community out here," said Kate Ambush '08, who helped plan the event. "We were kind of hanging out and we thought, 'Hey, Ivies is coming soon...wouldn't it be great if we could hold the same kind of event here in San Francisco?'"
Arts & Entertainment
Longfellows audition for a slot in NBC reality show
The Longfellows stepped into the limelight yesterday when they auditioned for The Sing Off, an NBC reality TV show that pits a cappella groups against one another to win $100,000 and a Sony Music recording contract.
Students perform in ‘For Colored Girls’ this weekend at Wish Theater
Twenty-one girls take the stage to perform a play directed by Liz Gary ’11
For the next two evenings, Wish Theater will feature “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” a show written by Ntozake Shange in 1975 and nominated for a Tony Award in 1977.
BMC’s Quadzilla attacks tonight with student bands
Though Ivies has passed and the Whittier Field stage has been dismantled, the music isn't about to stop. Quadzilla, a music festival sponsored by Bowdoin Music Collective (BMC), will throw the spotlight on student performers tonight on the Brunswick Quad from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Creative Campus: Will Hatleberg ’11 paints, colors his artistic career at Bowdoin
Crayons are not generally first on one's list of materials when it comes to making fine art. For Will Hatleberg '11, however, these preschool tools have been revolutionary, transforming his finely crafted oil paintings into sculptural, emotionally provocative gems.
Honors project ‘Fright Show’ freaks Wish Theater audience
As part of her self-designed major, bridging the theater and film departments, Jillian Eddy '12 presented her honors project "Jackie and Johnny's Friday Night Fright Show" yesterday night. Combining film collages with live theatrics and music, Eddy brought together multiple art mediums for a truly unique performance.
Music to My Ears: Lil Wayne, J Cole, Dr. Dre bound to impress
As I ponder an appropriate farewell, I reflect on what my intentions were when I began this musical column. One goal was to provide readers with comprehensive and thoughtful reviews of recent albums from hip-hop moguls and veterans. I also hoped to suggest new music from up-and-comers that were less well known.
DJ of the Week: ‘Biscuits & Moonshine’ with Colvin ’13 and Henry ’13
What is your favorite song lyric, and from what song? Tucker Colvin: “This may not be the moment to tell you face to face, but I could wait forever for the perfect time and place” from “Elaborate Lives” by Aida. James Henry: “Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow, don’t worry ’bout what you don’t know, life’s a dance you learn as you go” from “Life’s a Dance” by John Michael Montgomery.
Art Smarts: Maren Askins ’12 to perform classical concert tomorrow
Cellist Maren Askins '12 will perform a classical concert on Sunday, the culmination of her advanced lessons this semester.
Art Smarts: Holmgren’s recital composed of diverse melodies
In her recital next Saturday, Katarina Holmgren '13 will sing selections that range from opera to musical theater pieces.
Art Smarts: World Music Ensemble brings Colombian sounds to life
Music from the southern-Pacific region of Colombia filled Studzinki Recital Hall on Wednesday when the Afro-Colombian Music Ensemble played marimba under the direction of Professor Michael Birenbaum Quintero.
Men’s lacrosse grabs playoff victory over two-seed Amherst
The men's lacrosse team has caught fire and now sits just two wins away from clinching the NESCAC title as it prepares for a rematch with the NESCAC regular season champions, Tufts, on Saturday.
Baseball takes one of three from Jumbos
With the top spot in the division at stake, Bowdoin and Tufts University began a three-game series last weekend in Medford, Mass.
Women’s lax beats Amherst in quarterfinals
The women's lacrosse team secured the second seed in the NESCAC tournament last Friday at Tufts with a 7-6 win over the Jumbos.
Men’s tennis takes four-game winning streak into NESCACs
The men's tennis team finished its regular season in style, with two wins over rivals Trinity and Colby last weekend. On Friday, the 14th-ranked Polar Bears defeated the 15th-ranked Bantams 7-2 at Harvard.
Women’s novice crew team takes gold at New England Rowing Championship
It makes all those mornings of getting up early worthwhile. Last weekend, the crew team cleaned up last weekend in Worchester, Mass. at the at the New England Rowing Championship, which hosts approximately 1,200 athletes representing 36 schools.
Softball team beats Bates by one in final game
The softball team ended its season on a strong note with a 1-0 victory over Bates on Sunday. The game was the last of the season for both teams, who were both eliminated prior to the NESCAC postseason tournament.
Men’s track places sixth at NESCAC championship
The men's track team traveled to Wesleyan last weekend to compete in the NESCAC Track and Field Championships, where the Polar Bears claimed sixth place.
Women’s track takes fifth place at NESCACs
At the NESCAC Championship at Wesleyan University, the women's track team clinched fifth place in a day marked by personal achievements.
Women’s tennis beats Wellesley in last match of regular season
The Polar Bears will play No. 4-seed Middlebury in the first round of the NESCAC Tournament
The women's tennis team wrapped up a successful regular season with a commanding 9-0 victory over Wellesley College this past Saturday on the road.
After bomb scare, sailing posts seventh place finish
The sailing team finished its spring season at the Morris Trophy, hosted by BU, with a squad composed entirely of underclassmen. Coach Frank Pizzo called the event "a preview of next year's team."