Clayton Spencer was elected by the Bates College Board of Trustees as the eighth president of Bates on Dec. 3, 2011. She took office July 1, 2012.
She came to Bates from Harvard University, where she spent more than 15 years on the leadership team.
From September 2005 until she joined Bates, Spencer served as Harvard’s Vice President for Policy. In that capacity she directed policy initiatives on behalf of President Lawrence H. Summers and later President Drew Faust. She also oversaw the administration of the Office of the President and Provost, working closely with the president, provost and deans to achieve an integrated approach to an array of university priorities and goals. She played a key role in a reshaping and major expansion of Harvard’s financial aid program.
Earlier she served Harvard presidents Neil L. Rudenstine and then Summers as Associate Vice President for Higher Education Policy. From January through June 2001, she served concurrently as Executive Dean of the newly founded Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Spencer has also served as a lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, teaching courses on federal higher education policy.
As former Chief Education Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources (1993–97), she was responsible for staffing for the late U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy in his capacity as chairman and then ranking member of the committee. She managed the committee’s education staff and directed the legislative process for education legislation and policy, including federal student aid, science and research policy, the education budget and technology in education.
Previously she clerked for Judge Rya W. Zobel of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts (1985–86), practiced law at the Boston firm of Ropes & Gray (1986–89), and then served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Boston (1989–93), prosecuting criminal cases. She earned a J.D. from Yale in 1985. While at Yale Law School, Spencer was an editor of the Yale Law Journal, winner of the Moot Court competition and chair of the Public Interest Council.
She received a bachelor’s degree from Williams College in 1977, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in history and German, then earned a B.A. in theology from Oxford in 1979 as recipient of the Carroll A. Wilson Fellowship awarded by Williams. She received a master of arts degree in the study of religion from Harvard in 1982. In 2015 she received the Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) honorary degree from Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Spencer currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the American Council on Education (ACE), the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES Abroad), and of the 2015 Aspen Institute Task Force on College Opportunity for High Achievers.
She has served as a trustee of Williams College and Phillips Exeter Academy and has lectured and written on higher education issues. She has also served on the board of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network and the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) of the U.S. Department of Education. She was a participant in the American Council on Education’s 2013 Presidential Innovation Laboratory (PIL), and received a Bicentennial Medal for achievement in the field of education policy from Williams College.