Dr. John Cole
For history professor John Cole, athletics is part of a life well lived
When the Bates Scholar-Athlete Society was founded five years ago, in addition to the graduating seniors and alumni, the Society decided to induct each year a coach or a faculty member who has shown sustained support for athletic accomplishment. In the past four years, Bob Hatch, Professor Emeritus of Physical Education, the late Dick Williamson, Professor of French, George Wigton, Professor Emeritus of Physical Education, and Mike Retelle, Professor of Geology, were honored. We are pleased this year to welcome into the Bates Scholar-Athlete Society John Cole, Thomas Hedley Reynolds Professor of History, Faculty in the Program of Classical and Medieval Studies, and faculty liaison to the men’s Basketball team.
John Cole graduated from Haverford, and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. He teaches in areas of ancient Greece and early modern France. These are not areas normally noted for humor, but one can make a solid case for John Cole as one of the two funniest professors at Bates, with the other, curiously, also a Classics professor, Margaret Imber. Taking a course with John Cole is often parallel to that old advertisement with the student being blown back in their chair by the energy of his teaching. He served as Acting Dean of the Faculty, and as chair of the History Department and the Social Sciences division.
Part of John’s success as a teacher involves the intersection of his intellectual power with a self-deprecating sense of himself. Asked about his athletic endeavors, the 18th century French historian recounts a time-trial up from the St. Lawrence River to the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec, where both Montcalm and Wolfe were killed. Not doing it at night with weapons, John said, it was pretty easy. At Haverford, he received their Varsity Cup as a soccer goalie and a golfer. But what he remembered as a goalie was turning his back to see what all the noise was about on the adjacent football field — the football team had just scored its only touchdown in four years — and allowing the opposing soccer team an easy goal. As a marathoner, he remembered walking the last two miles in heat exhaustion.
John either brought with him, or more likely, took in while he was here, the Bates modesty gene. His resume on the History website is one page, with plenty of white space and two major books on Descartes and Pascal listed at the bottom. In contrast, the course descriptions for each of the courses on his Web site run from four to 12 pages each.
John is the longest serving member of the Bates faculty, having begun in 1967. He commented about himself, “I learned much more and more happily at little Haverford than at great Harvard, and I have gone on to learn much more and more happily while teaching at little Bates. I am convinced that a highly selective private liberal arts college offers a superior setting for most sorts of learning.” John has given his teaching career to Bates, doing it with great skill and support for others. He is, as the marathoners say, in for the long run.
For his passionate teaching, and for his devotion to athletics as an irreplaceable part of a life lived well, we are honored to welcome Professor John Cole into the Bates Scholar-Athlete Society.