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Bowdoin announces four new endowed positions in honor of Black graduates at faculty meeting

September 17, 2021

At the first faculty meeting of the school year, which was held Monday over Zoom, President Clayton Rose announced four new endowed faculty positions intended to honor notable Black graduates of the College. These positions aim to bring new faculty to the College to study race, racism and racial justice at an interdisciplinary level.

“[The positions] were created to honor four amazing members of our community, to add resources to an essential area of scholarship and to create the conditions for adding a critical mass of faculty of color to the College, in particular, Black faculty, where we lag in and where the challenge and competition is intense,” President Rose said at the meeting.

The four positions are named after Black Bowdoin graduates who have made an impact both on and off campus. Matthew D. Branche ’49 was the first Black class president, Iris W. Davis ’78 is a policy leader in Massachusetts and was a student leader when Bowdoin began admitting women, Rasuli Lewis ’73 is a founder and leader of the Harlem Children’s Zone and E. Fredric Morrow ’30 H’70 was the first Black person in an executive position at the White House.

“Through incredibly generous and anonymous gifts, these new professorships will benefit the College in several critical ways, including with fresh and exciting intellectual and curricular insights and experiences and by providing role models and mentors for junior faculty and our students,” President Rose wrote in an email to the College announcing the positions. “This effort will also play an important part in further attracting and retaining great teachers/scholars, in particular those of color.”

At the meeting, Senior Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs Jennifer Scanlon expanded on why this is an important first step for the College to have a diverse faculty.

“For years we’ve worked to diversify the faculty and the curriculum. And as we’ve been looking ahead, we recognize that we need new approaches to really do this even better,” Scanlon said. “We’re super excited and really grateful to our donors to have this opportunity to create four new positions to look at issues of race, racism and racial justice … our numbers of Black faculty remain very low, and we need to address that.”

These four endowed positions were paid for by anonymous donors to help compensate for their salaries, scholarship, teaching and sabbatical leaves.

“I invited Judith Casselberry to be my thought partner in this, and we met all through the spring semester. We’ve come up with some themes that really cross many, many disciplines at the College, and we’re going to continue to hone those a little bit,” Scanlon said.

These endowed positions will be spread throughout the College, and at least one will be connected to the Africana Studies department, to help bring new voices to campus.

“This is where we start, this is not where we end. We will be seeking degree chairs and to celebrate and honor those with other identities— Latinx, Asian, Indigenous—as we move through the years ahead,” Rose said. “And this is what I’m actively involved in as we speak. So, we’re at a beginning, not an end to a piece of work that we’re doing across all the other things that are going on at the College.”


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