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.
Snapshot: 9/11 flag tribute
On this day: On Monday, 2,977 flags were planted on Coe Quad as a tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attacks—among them ...
Architect imagines campus of the future
The recent renovation of the first-year brick entrances is just the first step toward a broader redesign of the entire College. The creation of a new entrance to Moulton Union and renovations to the Longfellow School are next on the agenda. Facilities Management will work with private architectural firms to develop the renovation. Stephen Stimson is one architect working with the College to design these renovations, who made several recommendations for improvement to campus.
District 66 candidates speak at Quinby House
Last night the three candidates running for the District 66 seat in the Maine House of Representatives spoke at a forum held in Quinby House. Democrat Matthea “Mattie” Daughtry, Republican Grant Connors and Fred Horch of the Green Party are vying to represent the district, which comprises most of the College.
In light of high damage costs in 2011-2012, College increases penalties
The College is cracking down on vandalism this year, implementing stricter disciplinary sanctions for alcohol-related property damage. The change comes after nearly 80 percent of Bowdoin students responded that the College should respond to alcohol-related property damage with stricter disciplinary sanctions in last spring’s alcohol survey.
Anonymous online forum seeks to broaden debate
Off-therecord.com, a new website billing itself as an anonymous online forum to debate controversial political and social issues, launched exclusively for Bowdoin community members on August 29.
Security warns campus of two local men
Just weeks into the new semester, the Office of Safety and Security has already sent two alerts warning the community about suspicious individuals.
Mills reminds entrepreneurs: education should be priority
In his convocation address, President Barry Mills urged student entrepreneurs to prioritize a College education over their own projects, a remark that caught the attention of Bowdoin entrepreneurs on campus and those taking time away from school.
- 1 days ago
Students, faculty and alumni to participate in annual Common Good Day
- September 7
Obituary: Remembering Leslie Shaw, professor of anthropology
Visiting Assistant Professor Leslie Shaw, who taught anthropology at the College since 1998, died unexpectedly on the evening of August 29 following complications from surgery. She was 57 years old.Shaw will be remembered for her tremendous spirit, influential work, and role as a mentor, colleague, and friend.
“Leslie quietly set a high bar for service, excellence and collegiality, qualities that we each hope to achieve with some measure of grace but which she embraced with seeming ease,” Christle Collins Judd, dean for academic affairs, wrote in an email to the Orient.
Shaw demonstrated a clear passion for her work that was evident to students and colleagues alike. Professor Susan Kaplan, chair of the sociology and anthropology departments, said Shaw brought quiet, but palpable energy to the departments.“She’d come into a room and she’d be a powerful presence,” Kaplan said. “Very quietly, not grandstanding.”
- September 7
New system to change College House affiliation
On Wednesday, Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster announced that the current system of affiliation between first-year bricks and College Houses will come to an end next fall, when each College House will instead be affiliated with floors from various first year bricks.
Editorial: Floor by floor
Bowdoin’s plan to change chem-free living will dramatically alter College House affiliations, but we should support its efforts to diversify the first-year experience.
Next fall will mark the start of a two-year trial program that will re-imagine first-year-College House affiliation. Each house will be affiliated with four or five floors from different bricks. Howell will remain a chem-free College House and will be affiliated with floating chem-free floors.
- 1 days ago
Whispering Pines: Forecast on climate change appears hazy
The debate about anthropogenic climate change can no longer focus on whether or not it is happening; this has been settled for some time now. As journalist and environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote in his July 19 Rolling Stone article, the U.S. “broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records” in June.
- 1 days ago
First years should discover legitimacy of stereotypes for themselves
Op-ed columns are usually just exercises in narcissism. So let’s cut through the bullshit. Today’s column is all about me. I’m a Bowdoin student and I’m important. I do things at Bowdoin and I’ll be doing things in the world one day.
- 1 days ago
After Troy Davis, students should continue fight against death penalty
As a fresh arrival to Bowdoin a year ago, I was struck by the passion exhibited for the case of Troy Davis, a man convicted of killing a police officer in Savannah, Ga. Davis was held on death row for 15 years and maintained his innocence throughout. Countless people across this country and around the world protested on his behalf, but all of these voices did not stop his execution, which went ahead on September 21, 2011.
- September 7
Editorial: The Offer of Bowdoin.edu
Anyone who wants anything has a choice: build or buy. Do it yourself, or have someone do it for you. In the field of web development, the choice can be particularly difficult. This week, the College and the Orient are launching new websites. Independently, we have both chosen to build.
- September 7
Romney’s campaign to court female voters is all about making appearances
Here’s the thing: while it’s impossible to deeply engage in women’s issues without a woman present, it’s entirely possible to have a woman present and still lack meaningful engagement with women’s issues.
- September 7
J-Board breaches honor and social codes
I hold that the members of the Bowdoin administration and of the Judicial Board are guilty of breaching the College’s Academic Honor and Social Code. Their crime is one of coercion. They use the implied threat of dismissal from the College to force students into signing an agreement and—by making them sign in groups—to use social pressure to prevent dissent.
- September 6
Half-Assed: Bookending Bowdoin: first years and seniors reign on campus
If you see a terrified person walking around the Bowdoin campus, it’s probably a first year or a senior. The first years have no idea what they’re going to do in this place; the seniors have no idea what they’re going to do once they leave.
- August 27
Editorial: A message to the Class of 2016
Orientation is dizzying and overwhelming—the days are long and laden with programming, you encounter a wide variety of people and remember very few names, and you travel constantly with your floor. It's a marathon meet-and-greet that will make the first few days of classes seem simple in comparison.
- May 4
Editorial: Staring at the Sun
The Bowdoin Daily Sun’s trivial posts reflect poorly on the College
On Tuesday, the Bowdoin Daily Sun posted an article lauding three Bowdoin students who secured internships at Goldman Sachs this summer. On Wednesday, the post was deleted from the site after drawing criticism for distastefully trumpeting the well-known fact that Bowdoin students often land prestigious internships, glorifying the financial industry, and neglecting to acknowledge two other students also interning at the bank.
King’s former students describe him as a measured statesman
When Roy Atkinson, a graduate student at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, heard that Angus King was running for the Senate, he got in his car and drove roughly 900 miles to Brunswick.
Talk of the Quad: Hot Dam: the river gets a makeover
The tension in the room is stifling. I, along with fellow intern Matt Gamache ’13, am sitting in on a conference call with our supervisor at the Nature Conservancy in Maine. Visibly nervous, Kate is negotiating with staff from two other large environmental orgaizations.They’re blowing up a dam.
From bankrolling to lobster rolls: Luke’s Lobster ships Maine to NYC
When Luke Holden opened the first location of Luke’s Lobster in Manhattan’s East Village in 2009, he was still employed full-time at Cohen & Steers investment bank. The company has steadily expanded over the past few years and Luke said his immediate goals are to reach Boston and Philadelphia. The long-term plan is to see Luke’s outposts in San Francisco, Chicago, and L.A.
Talk of the Quad: Late for the Race
On Saturday morning, I decided to go for a short run before meeting a friend for brunch. I started off crossing Park Row towards Maine Street. Before I knew it, I was being stopped at the crosswalk at the end of Page Street.
Robbie Deveny ’13 works for catering company in Aspen, meets world’s VIPs
It is an honor to score an invite to the Aspen Ideas Festival, where participants like Katie Couric and retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal gather in the Colorado mountains for a week of debate on issues ranging from democracy to the societal roles of professional athletes.
Trip report: A bioluminescent midnight hike with the BOC
For most students, Sunday night means holing up in a favorite study spot to crank out work, but two weekends ago, 12 of us in the Outing Club took advantage of the waning moon to head to the Coastal Studies Center (CSC) for a moonlight stroll.
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Samantha Garvey ’16 gets shout-out from Obama at DNC
When President Obama recalled meeting inspiring Americans in his address at the Democratic National Convention last Thursday, Samantha Garvey '16 had no idea she would be mentioned.
Garvey met Obama last January when she was named a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, one of the country’s most prestigious science competitions for high school students, for her research on the defense mechanisms of mussels.
- September 7
Record harvest means Maine lobstermen get raw deal
Maine’s seafood celebrity, the lobster, made national headlines this summer when fishermen across the state brought in record hauls of the crustacean, leading to low market prices and frustration in the lobstering community.
- September 7
‘Conning Harvard’: New book on Adam Wheeler will hit shelves this month
After filing a Freedom of Information Act request, sifting through hundreds of documents, conducting countless interviews and even spending a night at Bowdoin, Zauzmer sheds new light on how Wheeler was able to game the system.
- September 7
Beer and boys: My first college party at Bowdoin
This brings me to the first lesson I learned about college parties: if you actually want to party, being cool and fashionably late is not always the way to go.
Arts & Entertainment
Snapshot: Dog Days are Over
Benh Zeitlin’s ‘Beasts’ is magical, but lacks coherence
“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” directed by Benh Zeitlin, is one of those films that demands a second viewing—if only so viewers can wrap their minds around it. In his first feature film, Zeitlin tells the story of six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her father Wink (Dwight Henry) as they struggle to confront what appears to be the unraveling of the universe.
Maine Pro Musica performs, brings Classical to campus
Maine Pro Musica, a thirty-two piece orchestra based in Rockport, Maine, performed at Studizinski Recital Hall last Saturday afternoon in the final show of their four-concert summer tour. Saturday’s program consisted of traditional classical works by child prodigies spanning several genres. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Overture to the Marriage of Figaro,” Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto, no. 3, op.37, and Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 4, op.90, were performed.
Pioneering photographer Day featured in exhibit
With the debut of a new surrealist photography exhibit, Wegman’s Weimaraners now have to share space with their artistic ancestors at the Museum of Art. On September 6, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art opened “Making a Presence: F. Holland Day in Artistic History,” chronicling the life and work of Boston photographer Fred Holland Day.
Cover band Suck My NESCAC to perform at Epicuria
Tomorrow night, the men’s rugby team will host Epicuria, its 23rd annual toga party at Ladd House. For the second year in a row, the event will feature Suck My NESCAC, a pop-punk cover band made up of seniors Hunter Rusack, Phil Cuddeback, Robbie Deveny, and David Raskin. I spoke with the band earlier this week about their tunes, their history, and their hopes for the future—especially tomorrow night’s performance.
- September 7
“Hello Nature” shows Wegman beyond Weimaraners
Indeed, though there is nothing awe-inspiring about the scale of Wegman’s work, the exhibit is compelling in its ability to create a narrative that explains the artist’s lifelong fascination with nature. Wegman’s work is playful but incredibly sincere. There is a refreshing innocence to his exploration of nature; in its simplicity, his work captures a sense of childhood reverence for the wilderness.
- September 7
With profs. on sabbatical, Racer X tradition on hold
There was a notable absence in the line-up of bands during last year's Senior Week. Racer X, fronted by Bowdoin professors Vineet Shende and Aaron Kitch, was replaced by DJ Sex Ray Vision, leaving many students disappointed. Although the controversial change led to whisperings of money disputes and miscommunication amongst students, Shende attributes the band’s absence to simple miscommunication with a Senior Week coordinator.
- September 7
Boeding ’14 captures summer scenes
James Boeding ’14 spent this summer taking more photographs than most other students do in their lifetimes. As a recipient of the Visual Arts Department’s annual McKee Photography Grant, Boeding completed a series of photos entitled “The Weekender: Millerton to New York City.”
- September 7
Women’s Rugby sets sights on Nationals
After a 10-3 season last year, the women’s rugby team hopes to continue its success this season despite having graduated six seniors last spring.
- September 6
Alum turns from biology to New York art scene
When Ian Trask graduated from Bowdoin with a degree in biology, he was not the one to bet on to become an up-and-coming sculptor. He now regularly sells artwork around Brooklyn and Chelsea, and is preparing for his first solo show in New York this November.
Women’s soccer undefeated after sweeping first three games
The women’s soccer team emerged triumphant from their first conference match of the season last weekend, besting the Wesleyan Cardinals 1-0. On Wednesday, the team silenced Bates 3-0, improving to 3-0-0 (2-0-0 NESCAC).
Ex-investment banker Tim Ryan brings unique skills to leading the athletics department
When Jeff Ward stepped down this summer after 14 years as director of athletics, it fell to Tim Ryan ’98 to assume the position of interim athletics director.
A talented baseball and football player who went to Wells High School in Maine, Ryan says he chose Bowdoin because it was “the best academic school that [he] could get into and continue to play one or both sports.”
After first week, Volleyball undefeated at 5-0
With a 4-0 sweep of the Endicott Invitational last weekend and a victory over the University of New England (UNE)at home on Tuesday, the volleyball team shows no signs of slowing down.
In first scrimmage of the year, football loses star wide reciever
“I looked up and saw a defensive back [Jaibril Coy ’15] explode after his interception for 70 yards. He was in the end zone in a blink of an eye,” said Bryan Hurley ’15, one of the fans at the Bowdoin football team’s intrasquad scrimmage this past Sunday. Fans, players and coaches alike had the opportunity to assess the progress of the team at the preseason game.
Athlete of the Week: Melissa Haskell ’13
Senior volleyball Captain Melissa Haskell had a groundbreaking start to her final season at the Endicott Invitational this weekend. She left the tournament with a total of 30 kills, 14 aces and 32 digs, while helping her team establish their undefeated record.
- 2 days ago
Tennis teams start strong opening tournaments
Following deep runs into the NCAA tournament last year, both the men’s and women’s tennis teams hit the courts this past weekend for their first tournaments of the season.
In two weeks, the men’s tennis team will play in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Invitational at Williams College. The women's team’s next tournament is at the University of Pennsylvania September 21.
- 2 days ago
Field hockey starts season 2-0 on rookie and veteran efforts
Bowdoin’s field hockey team handled NESCAC rival Wesleyan 3-1 in Saturday's season opener.
Bowdoin’s next matchup is against non-conference Wellesley College on Saturday at 1 p.m.
- 2 days ago
Men’s soccer rebounds, defeats Southern Maine 8-0
After a 2-0 loss to Wesleyan in Saturday's season opener, the men's soccer team rebounded on Monday with an 8-0 win against the University of Southern Maine.
Bowdoin will face the University of Maine–Farmington in a home match at noon this Saturday.
- 3 days ago
Women’s rugby posts two shut-out victories in first tournament
In their first tournament, the women’s rugby team amassed 86 total offensive points, limiting three different opponents to zero tries and a single field goal.
The Bowdoin women’s rugby team cleaned up at last weekend’s Beantown Rugby tournament at UMass-Amherst, beating Williams, Amherst and Smith Colleges with scores of 59-3, 12-0, and 19-0 respectively.
The Polar Bears are now two-time defending Beantown champions and have won six straight matches at the tournament since 2010.
- September 7
Former Athletic Director went beyond coaching for 14 years
As the Fall athletic season builds momentum, the Bowdoin community adjusts to the departure of Jeff Ward—Bowdoin’s athletic director since 1998—who announced in early June that he would not return this fall.