Jim Bristol ’68: Paying it back in memory of Sue Paradis Bristol ’68

Jim Bristol says that his late wife, Sue, always wanted to pay back the scholarship she received to attend Bates. Unfortunately, when she entered Bates in 1964, her scholarship did not cover room and board so Sue lived at home in Auburn, caring for a sick mother while taking classes at Bates.   

In recognition of this hardship and to honor her memory, Jim established the Suzanne Paradis Bristol ’68 Financial Aid Fund.

Jim says, “the intention is to endow the scholarship in perpetuity for a student who mirrors Sue.”  As such, this fund, along with a partial matching gift, will provide tuition, room, board and fees for a student of need from Lewiston or Auburn.

Both members of the class of 1968, Jim and Sue met their first year on a ski trip to Sugarloaf. Although Sue lived at home, she made a special effort to develop close friends on campus and through an “adopted” home on Frye Street.

Sue and Jim Bristol

Balancing academic and family priorities wasn’t easy, but Sue rose to the challenge. She was named a Dana Scholar, was inducted into the College Key, and graduated with a B.S. in chemistry. Jim credits the academic rigor at Bates as being instrumental in forming the basis for Sue’s success as a teacher, researcher, and mother. Her children still recall her high expectations and words of wisdom: “You know what is right, you don’t have to ask.” 

Sue had a remarkable life. Her dream was to be a teacher and after she graduated from Bates, she returned to Edward Little High School in Auburn where she taught chemistry for three years. While Jim pursued a post doctorate at the University of Michigan, Sue got a job there organizing data and writing scientific papers for professors. Later, she would do lab research at Western Electric fabricating silicon wafers, the precursor to silicon chips used in computers today.

She returned to teaching later in life, tutoring special needs students at a community college. Jim and Sue enjoyed a wonderful life together, raising three children while living in New Hampshire, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut and, most recently, between Arizona and Maine. 

Jim credits Bates for developing versatile and well-rounded people. He notes that both he and Sue found their non-science classes to be extremely challenging but integral to their success as writers and thinkers in their lives and careers. Jim recalls the words of Cultural Heritage professor Carl Straub: “Jim Bristol, it’s time for you to get out of the test tube.”

But Jim would spend his entire career in science, pursuing his interest in drug discovery research and development, and retiring as the head of worldwide discovery research for Pfizer. He now consults for biotech companies and lends his expertise to three different boards. 

Jim wishes that he and Sue had stayed more connected to Bates over the years. After having a rewarding time at his 50th reunion, which Sue was unable to attend due to her illness, Jim wishes that they had attended reunions together.

He recognizes the financial difficulties and personal obstacles that students like Sue face in attending college. Sue always hoped that she could give back to Bates if possible.

“So, we’re paying it back now,” Jim says.