The Benjamin E. Mays Medal

The Benjamin E. Mays Medal award was established during Mays’ lifetime, and he was the inaugural recipient of the award in 1982. It is the highest alumni award of the college and is presented to an alumna or alumnus who has performed distinguished service to the larger (worldwide) community and been deemed a Bates graduate of outstanding accomplishment. It is an occasional award that has been presented only 18 times.

+Dr. Douglas Evans ’78

In 2023, Alumni Association President Kevin Moore ’93 presented the award to Doug Evans ’78 during Reunion Weekend.

Dr. Douglas “Doug” Evans, Class of 1978, has devoted his professional career to the research and treatment of pancreatic cancer and inherited endocrine syndromes, saving and extending the lives of many throughout his three decades in medicine. The nominations we received on Doug’s behalf honored both his service to medicine — specializing in one of the most difficult areas of practice — and his dedication as a surgeon, teacher, mentor and life-long friend.

Since 2009, Doug has served as the Chair of the Department of Surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and previously, he was the Hamill Foundation Distinguished Professor of Surgery at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. 

At MD Anderson, his endocrine surgery group worked extensively on the genotype-phenotype correlations in multiple endocrine neoplasia syndromes and they were the first to define the role for ultrasound in the preoperative management of patients with thyroid cancer. He has completed a number of clinical trials, emphasized the importance of treatment sequencing and strategies, and described a number of novel techniques for vascular resection and reconstruction at the time of pancreatectomy. Each of these efforts has made tremendous impact in the global medical community.

The list of his accomplishments and contributions go on, but a common thread among his nominations is his character and continued loyalty to his Bates friends since graduation 45 years ago. Always a call or text away when a classmate needs guidance, Doug brings support, compassion, and a wealth of knowledge to those around him despite a demanding career with widespread influence. 

For his tremendous contributions to cancer research and treatment, the Bates College Alumni Association is pleased to recognize Dr. Douglas Evans ’78 with the Benjamin E. Mays Medal.

+James Owens ’87

In 2018, Alumni Association President Lisa Romeo ’88 presented the award to James Owens ’87 during Reunion Weekend.

Inspired by the transformative power of reading, James Owens set out in 2012 to create an anthology that would ultimately take him on a 15-year life-altering journey. Published in 2017, The World Is Just a Book Away weaves together the unique stories of 60 contributors — from Nobel laureates to actors, humanitarians, and many more — who at first glance have little in common. But as James skillfully demonstrates, these prominent people all share something important: their lives have been influenced by a love of books and reading.

It was during this passion project that James was inspired to not only write about the power of literacy, but also to physically deliver it to those who need it most. In 2008, he founded a non-profit organization dedicated to creating the next generation of strong leaders through literacy and education programs in underdeveloped nations. Sharing its name with the title of his anthology, The World Is Just a Book Away builds libraries in countries that have large orphan populations as a result of devastating natural disasters. In the nine years since its inception, The World Is Just a Book Away has built 90 libraries, three of which are mobile. At one site in Indonesia, books are delivered by horseback to 10 remote schools atop a volcano. This revolutionary approach is effecting meaningful change within some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

The World Is Just A Book Away received the Independent Publisher Book Award for Most Original Concept in 2018. All profits from the sale of the book will go to supporting the organization of the same name.

From those devastated by natural disaster in Indonesia to people afflicted by major social and economic upheaval in Mexico, James Owens’ work has improved the lives of over 70,000 children by providing the next generation with the tools, skills, and resources they need to face the challenges of today’s complex world. James exemplifies the Bates touchstones of informed civic action and the cultivation of intellectual discovery.

It is my honor to present the Benjamin Elijah Mays Medal to James Owens, Class of 1987.

Here is a complete list of previous award winners.