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George Colby Chase

George Colby Chase graduated from Bates in 1869 and taught for 22 years as professor of English at the College before he became President.

Chase, known as “the great builder,” oversaw the construction of 11 new buildings, including Coram Library, Rand Hall, the Central Heating Plant, the Chapel, Libbey Forum, the Carnegie Science Hall, and Chase Hall; he tripled the number of students and faculty; and he managed to increase the College’s endowment from $259,000 to $1,135,000.

Chase was known for being “fanatically frugal” and money-conscious: when he went on fund-raising trips, he often had his son take his trunk on a wheelbarrow to the railroad station. And when the faculty said they thought students should bear more of the cost of their education, he reluctantly approved a $5 tuition increase (the Trustees later voted to raise the cost fifteen dollars, making tuition $90).

A teacher-president in the old tradition, Chase taught at least one course throughout his entire incumbency. His home, at 16 Frye Street, functioned as a campus facility where students would go for their admission interviews, various progress checks, and upon graduation, for letters of reference.

In April of 1919, at the age of 74, Chase wrote to the Trustees regarding his retirement, and the selection of a new president: his successor was to be “a man strong in scholarship, in his Christian character and influence, in business ability, and in warm sympathy with young people . . . and hopefully not older than 35.” On May 27, 1919, after a full day at work, George Colby Chase died of a heart attack.


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