Saturday marked the final meeting of the President’s Visiting Committee (PVC) during President Barry Mills’ time at Bowdoin. This weekend, all previous attendees of the meetings were invited to come to the College to talk with Mills. Between 20 and 25 people made the trip this year.

The PVC was formed in 2003 by Mills for the purpose of discussing various topics on his mind relating to the College. Mills wanted to find a way to engage alumni and parents, who were invested in the College and who he thought would have interesting insight into issues facing Bowdoin.

This year, the PVC primarily discussed the issues involved with the search for the next president of the College. Mills sent the attendees some of the materials that were made available to candidates and asked them what they would do if they were selected as the next president of Bowdoin.

No member of the Presidential Search Committee was in attendance and Mills said that the meeting will have no concrete effect on the presidential search process. However, he maintains that it was a worthwhile exercise.
“It was an interesting opportunity for them to think about the future of the College and think about where we’ve been and where we’re headed,” said Mills.

It will be up to the next president to decide whether to continue the PVC or not.

Since 2003, the PVC has met once a year in the fall, with a follow-up conference call in the spring. The committee usually consists of 12 to 15 parents and alumni, and its membership changes from year to year. The College does not pay for the attendees’ transportation—President Mills simply offers an invitation to the people that he would like to talk to.

“I would run into people and know people through my travels and I would find people who I thought were really interesting who I thought would be interesting to put into a room and who could give me good advice,” said Mills with regards to how he chooses who he invites to join the PVC.

According to Mills, people usually spend three years on the committee and then step down, though sometimes parents and alumni continue to attend meetings for more than three consecutive years because they enjoy the opportunity to engage with the College.

“There were a variety of things that must have been on my mind each year on those particular topics and we talked about them and they helped inform me about how I thought about it,” said Mills.

Previous topics of discussion at PVC meetings have included the Bowdoin brand, athletics, the curriculum, the library and whether and to what extent Bowdoin ought to be global.

When Mills first formed the PVC he was interested in the Bowdoin mission statement and what it meant. After discussing it with the PVC, Mills decided that the Offer of the College best summed up the true mission statement of the College and helped differentiate Bowdoin from other schools.

“Those people helped me and gave me the confidence to say that’s what we ought to be doing,” said Mills with regards to pushing for the Offer of the College to be used as a sort of mission statement.

An adapted version of the original Offer of the College, written by William DeWitt Hyde, President of the College from 1885 to 1917, is now displayed prominently on the Bowdoin website and heard around campus.
Specific directions for the organization and application of technology at Bowdoin were also discussed at one meeting when many technology experts were present.

Another year the PVC discussed the relevance of the liberal arts.

“It was interesting coming out of that meeting to see that most people really believed that our liberal arts curriculum that we’ve maintained for my entire time here really is what is the touchstone of Bowdoin,” said Mills.