Bates Presidential History

2002-present | Elaine Tuttle Hansen

Elaine Tuttle Hansen became president of Bates College on July 1, 2002, the seventh president of the College since its founding in 1855. Most recently Hansen served as provost at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, a liberal arts college of 1,100 students located in suburban Philadelphia. Hansen earned her A.B. at Mount Holyoke College, her M.A. at the University of Minnesota, and her Ph.D. at the University of Washington.

Before coming to Haverford in 1980, she was an associate editor of the Middle English Dictionary at the University of Michigan and taught at Hamilton College. She has taught a wide variety of courses in Middle English literature and in contemporary women’s writing and feminist theory, as well as introductory linguistics and first-year writing seminars. Before being named Provost at Haverford, she served as Chair of the English Department and as Coordinator of the Haverford/Bryn Mawr Concentration in Feminist and Gender Studies. She was also awarded the Lindbach Teaching Prize.

The recipient of research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies, and of Whitehead and Mellon Faculty Development funds, Hansen has published numerous literary critical articles and reviews and three books: Reading Wisdom in Old English Poetry (University of Toronto Press, 1988); Chaucer and the Fictions of Gender (University of California Press, 1992); and Mother Without Child: Contemporary Fiction and the Crisis of Motherhood (University of California Press, 1997). She is a member and past President of the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship and a member of the Modern Language Association, where she has served on the Executive Committee of the Chaucer division, the Delegate Assembly, and the Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities.


1989-2002 | Donald West Harward

In 1989, an observer of the Hedley Reynolds presidency noted that Bates was somewhat isolated geographically and by temperament. Could the next president, it was asked, open Bates up to the challenges and problems facing the rest of the world?

From 1989 to 2002, Donald West Harward answered that question by affirming the important idea that “learning is a moral activity that carries responsibility beyond the self.” Harward helped Bates see how traditional College values of egalitarianism and social justice created a moral imperative to connect academically to the world beyond Bates. Students achieved greater opportunities to study and conduct research off campus and with their professors, and the capstone thesis program enjoyed greater integration with the rest of the academic offering.

Harward oversaw the creation of two dozen new academic programs, giving faculty the proper resources to investigate the new questions emerging where traditional disciplines bumped into each other. “You can’t just study the molecular structure of a substance,” he would say as an example, “without learning about the people who might be using the substance to create things that can destroy our environment.”

Under Harward, Bates for the first time in many years reached out institutionally to the Lewiston-Auburn community. Bates faculty and students built relationships with the community through one of the most active service-learning programs in the country. As a college, Bates has played a leadership role in the strategic alliance of community leaders known as LA Excels. While upholding the notion that a College’s intellectual activity must remain for the most part cloistered, he would help Bates provide a national model for ways colleges and universities can nevertheless connect to and support their local communities.

Bates infrastructure saw major improvement during the Harward presidency with the planning and building of 22 essential academic, residential and athletic facilities. These include Pettengill Hall and its Perry Atrium, the Bates College Coastal Center at Shortridge, Dunn Guest House, Keigwin Amphitheater and the Lake Andrews restoration, Residential Village, Benjamin E. Mays Center, Wallach Tennis Center, John Bertram AstroTurf field, track and soccer field, softball field, Underhill Arena and the Davis Fitness Center.


1967-1989 | Thomas Hedley Reynolds

When President Thomas Hedley Reynolds retired after serving Bates, from 1967 to 1989, he could say that of the 159 faculty members, all but 16 had been appointed during his presidency. While key facility improvements also marked his tenure, the championing of the Bates faculty was perhaps his greatest achievement.

“President Reynolds has given us more time, more colleagues, and perhaps above all else, more self-esteem,” said a member of the history faculty John R. Cole, in 1989. “The result is that a good college of good teachers has become a better college of better teachers.”

An early move towards this achievement was Reynolds’ emphasis on improving salaries in an effort to attract and retain high-quality faculty. Bates achieved greater gender equity during the Reynolds years, as well as an improved faculty-student ratio and an average class size of 15.

Furthermore, Reynolds also encouraged closer faculty involvement in the governance of the College through elected committees as well as the expansion of the sabbatical program. His own experience as a teacher and a scholar allowed Reynolds to recognize teaching and scholarship as complimentary professorial activities (previous administrations had viewed the two as generally antithetical), leading Reynolds to encourage faculty research and creativity.

Arriving at Bates during a tumultuous time for U.S. colleges, Reynolds was also faced with students upset by strict campus social rules reflecting 1950s sensibilities. He guided the College through the campus tensions of the late 1960s and 1970s with a renewed emphasis on involving all members of the community in decision-making.

Significant renovations and physical additions to the campus include the George and Helen Ladd Library, Merrill Gymnasium and Tarbell Pool, the Olin Arts Center with its Bates College Museum of Art, the conversion of the former women’s athletic building into the Edmund S. Muskie Archives, and the acquisition of the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area. The houses on Frye Street, a popular and creative residential alternative to traditional dormitory housing, were also acquired primarily during the Reynolds presidency.


1944-1967 | Charles Franklin Phillips

The youngest President, selected at 34, Charles F. Phillips was a full professor at Colgate and a leading economist before coming to Bates. He had also taught at Hobart College, and at the time of his interview at Bates was on leave from Colgate and working for the U.S. government in the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supplies as deputy administrator in charge of rationing.

At Bates, Phillips initiated the Bates Plan of Education, a liberal-arts “core” study program, and developed the “3/4 option” which allowed students to complete their college education in three years if they desired. He also saw the campus expand with the additions of Memorial Commons, the Health Center, Dana Chemistry Hall, Lane Hall, a new Maintenance Center, Page Hall, Pettigrew Hall, Treat Art Gallery, and Schaeffer Theater. Phillips also added full-time administrators to the College staff: an alumni secretary, a director of admissions, a dean of men, and an assistant to the President.

Known for bridging the gap between the academic and business worlds, Phillips won many friends for the College, and often encouraged young graduates not to join a big company, but to start their own. Convinced that the American economic and political systems thrive on competition, Phillips applied this theory to Bates College and its graduates. In his inauguration address he quoted Edison: “Genius [required to make it big] is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” During his time at Bates, Phillips lived by this adage – he was famous for keeping a tight schedule, with or without a clock, and for working late hours.

President Phillips retired in 1967, leaving a student body of 1,004 and an endowment of $6,938,000. He lived in Auburn after retirement and passed away in 1998.


1920 -1944 | Clifton Daggett Gray

Clifton Daggett Gray, clergyman and former editor of Chicago’s The Standard, saw Bates through an era marked by vibrant growth, the Great Depression, and World War II.

In the early 1920s, Bates debating went international; Libbey Forum and Hedge Laboratory were renovated, and the Clifton Daggett Gray Athletic Building and Alumni Gym were built. Then, in 1929, the stock market crashed. Students became hard to find. Who could afford the $600-a-year tuition? The result was a year in the red. However, the financial difficulty did not last long.

When World War II came, the College responded. President Gray arranged for a V12 Naval Training Unit on campus, assuring the College good students during wartime while other colleges were feeling the draft. Ninety Bowdoin students came upriver to Bates for the V12 program.

By the time he retired in 1944, Gray had increased student enrollment from 527 to 749, faculty from 36 to 70, and the endowment from $1 million to $2 million.


1894-1919 | 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.


1863-1894 | Oren Burbank Cheney

The Reverend Oren Burbank Cheney was the founder and first president of Bates College. He was a Freewill Baptist minister, a teacher, and a former Maine state representative. In 1854 the Parsonfield Seminary, a school at which Cheney had been a student and a teacher, burned down. Seeing a need for a new, larger, and more centrally located school for his denomination, Cheney steered a bill through the Maine Legislature in 1855, creating a corporation for educational purposes called initially “Maine State Seminary.”

According to Bates history, the two existing Maine colleges, Bowdoin and Colby, were confident they could offer all the higher education the state needed. But Cheney persevered. He assembled a faculty of six dedicated to teaching the classics and moral philosophy and in 1863 received the collegiate charter. In 1864 the Maine State Seminary became Bates College. The College consisted of Hathorn and Parker halls, and the student body numbered fewer than 100.

At the end of Cheney’s tenure, tuition was $36 a year, the library amounted to 16,500 volumes, and the campus had expanded to 50 acres with six buildings. Bates was known for its nondiscriminatory liberal education, made available even to students of limited financial means, and for “doing great work for the state of Maine in educating teachers for its public schools.”