Maine Editorial Photographer/Photojournalist » Professional Maine Photography Brunswick Portland ME

Bowdoin Commencement 2009: A day rich with traditions

This past Saturday we were very fortunate to cover Commencement exercises at Bowdoin College for the fourth year. While another company snaps a photo of each graduate as she or he is handed a diploma by Bowdoin President Barry Mills, my assistant Angie Devenney and I were hired by the College to capture the story of the entire day in a body of work that will be used to illustrate an article about graduation in the Bowdoin Magazine and to meet all sorts of marketing needs the college might have (calendar, web site, view books, slide shows, etc.)

Bowdoin Commencement is always fun to photograph because the day is filled with great traditions, starting with a grand parade through The Quad.

Seniors assembled in front of Baxter House where they donned caps and gowns, grabbed juice, coffee and blueberry muffins (one hardy senior brought his own blueberry ale!) and lined up in alphabetical order.09_commencement-1611

As the seniors milled around waiting for the start of the parade, it was fun to catch some of the great details, like these gorgeous stoles sported by members of the African-American Society09_commencement-1761and the quirky Converse High Tops with lime laces worn by one senior.09_commencement-1641

While I started my day photographing the assembling seniors, Angie started the day shooting preparations in the ceremony area, and then climbing to the top of Hubbard Hall, the campus landmark at the south end of The Quad, from which she would get a aerial view of the festivities. It’s a precarious climb that requires carrying photo equipment up tight stairs and through a trap door onto the roof, but the climb pays off with a fantastic overview of the whole ceremony. (It’s good to have an assistant who isn’t afraid of heights!)

Here is a shot she took as the faculty were milling about in front of Hubbard, their staging area for the parade.09_commencement-2341

As the parade kicked off the seniors marched onto The Quad. Their first destination was to pass through the lined-up faculty. Here is a photo of the faculty in their colorful regalia as they took their places in front of Hubbard Hall.09_commencement-2651 Class President Christian Adams led his class through as the faculty applauded the seniors’ achievement.09_commencement-2891

The faculty traditionally joins the parade after the last senior passes, and at a later spot in the parade, the roles are reversed: The seniors stopped and flanked either side of the parade route and applauded the faculty as they entered the ceremony site and took their seats.09_commencement-3581

Bowdoin alumni play an important part of Commencement and they also joined the parade. It’s easy to spot the alums as they sport distinctive straw hats. Alums collect a round pins for each Commencement they attend, and some of the older alums had hats filled with pins.09_commencement-3711

The parade deposited seniors, faculty and alums at the seating set up in front of the Walker Art Museum. Here’s a great shot Angie got of the entire area from her perch on top of Hubbard.09_commencement-4681

What would a graduation ceremony be without speakers? At Bowdoin the tradition is to have students, chosen through competition, address their fellow graduates.  This year’s speakers were Samantha Scully and Ian Yaffe.09_commencement-495

Here are seated graduates listening to speakers; Angie found a child amusing herself with a stuffed Polar Bear, the school mascot.09_commencement-4831

Finally the time arrived for the awarding of degrees. Seniors lined up, many were nervous and excited at the same time as they waited their turn to walk up to the stage.09_commencement-6461

Parents and friends cheered as their graduate’s name was called. (Notice the martini glass; it will show up again in a later photo.)09_commencement-6691

Bowdoin College President Barry Mills personally handed out each diploma and shook each graduates’ hand.  09_commencement-591

Parents jockeyed for position to get pictures of graduates returning to their seats with diplomas in hand.09_commencement-6771

Finally, the ceremony ended with the traditional hat toss.
09_commencement-7321As the crowd filed out of the ceremony site, families and friends united to celebrate and take photos. Here’s a fun shot Angie got of some guys posing with celebratory cigars.09_commencement-7961

To wrap up the day there was a luncheon at the Field House complete with champagne toasts. (Yep, there’s the martini glass again.)09_commencement-8551

For even more photos, surf over to Bowdoin College’s Flickr site where hundreds of low resolution photos are posted from our coverage of Baccalaureate and Commencement. The easiest way to use Flickr is to click on the icon for the slideshow function on the right-hand side; the icon looks like a tiny screen. Prints of these images will be available for purchase from Bowdoin’s Printroom site beginning June 3, 2009.  For  in-depth coverage of the speeches and weekend events, check out the full write-up on the Bowdoin site.

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  • May 29, 2009 - 12:41 pm

    Sonia Katchian - Splendid coverage of commencement, Michele! The people and businesses of Maine are lucky to have such a talented photographer as you in their midst….to say nothing of a very professional, and super nice person.

  • June 4, 2009 - 10:39 pm

    michelestapleton - Thanks Sonia! We love working for Bowdoin, it’s a gorgeous campus, they have super students who are very much at ease with us taking photos and they give us access to fun places from which to take photos–like helping Angie up onto the roof of Hubbard Tower. This year the light could not have been better during commencement. The soft cloud cover made all the harsh shadows go away!

  • November 11, 2009 - 11:27 pm

    Christopher O'Donnell - Hi Michele,

    I just found your blog. What great photos of graduation, I really love the movement you captured in the hat toss. I just moved to the Brunswick area last month and must say that Bowdoin is a beautiful campus, it must be great working those events.

    I’ll be checking in now and then to see what new things you post. It’s always great to discover fellow photographers in the area.

    Best,
    Christopher

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