Since 1855, Bates College has been dedicated to the emancipating potential of the liberal arts. Bates educates the whole person through creative and rigorous scholarship in a collaborative residential community. With ardor and devotion — Amore ac Studio — we engage the transformative power of our differences, cultivating intellectual discovery and informed civic action. Preparing leaders sustained by a love of learning and a commitment to responsible stewardship of the wider world, Bates is a college for coming times.
The Foundations of the College
Bates was founded in 1855 by people who believed strongly in freedom, civil rights, and the importance of a higher education for all who could benefit from it. Bates has always admitted students without regard to race, sex, religion, or national origin. Great efforts were made in designing the institution to ensure that no qualified student would be turned away because he or she could not afford the cost of a Bates education. Although they met with considerable criticism from other colleges, the founders held fast to their commitment to admit both men and women: Bates was New England's first coeducational college and one of the first coeducational colleges in the United States. The inclusive nature of the college's philosophy has guided, enriched, and strengthened the institution for more than 150 years.
As with many New England institutions, religion played a vital role in the college's founding. The Reverend Oren Burbank Cheney is honored as the founder and first president of Bates. He was a Freewill Baptist minister, a teacher, an abolitionist, and a former Maine legislator. Cheney steered through the Maine Legislature a bill creating a corporation for educational purposes initially called the Maine State Seminary. The school was established in Lewiston, at that time Maine's fastest-growing industrial and commercial center.
Cheney assembled a six-person faculty dedicated to teaching the classics and moral philosophy to men and women. In 1863 he received a collegiate charter, and obtained financial support for an expansion from the city of Lewiston and from Benjamin E. Bates, the Boston financier and manufacturer whose textile mills dominated the Lewiston riverfront. In 1864 the Maine State Seminary became Bates College. The college consisted of Hathorn and Parker halls and a student body of fewer than 100. By the end of Cheney's tenure, in 1894, the campus had expanded to fifty acres and six buildings. Bates was already known for its inclusive admission practices, classical curriculum, and commitment to preparing its graduates for careers in the professions, education, and public service.
George Colby Chase succeeded Cheney in 1894. A graduate of the Bates Class of 1869, he taught English at the college for twenty-two years before assuming the presidency. A teacher-president in the old tradition, Chase taught at least one course each year throughout his incumbency. Known as "the great builder," Chase oversaw the construction of eleven new buildings on campus, including Coram Library, the Chapel, Chase Hall, Carnegie Science Hall, and Rand Hall. He tripled the number of students and faculty, as well as the endowment.
In 1919, at age seventy-four, Chase urged the Board of Trustees to select a successor who was "a man strong in scholarship, in his Christian character and influence, in business ability, and in warm sympathy with young people." That successor was Clifton Daggett Gray, a clergyman and former editor of The Standard, a Baptist periodical published in Chicago. Gray saw Bates through an era marked by vibrant growth and modernization, but also through the years of the Great Depression and World War II. By the early 1920s, Bates' now-famous debate team achieved recognition in international competitions. On campus, renovations were completed on Libbey Forum and the Hedge Science Laboratory, and the Clifton Daggett Gray Athletic Building and Alumni Gymnasium were constructed. Though the Depression placed serious financial burdens on students and on the college, Bates continued to thrive. In the 1940s, when male students abandoned college campuses to enlist in the armed forces, Gray established a V-12 Naval Training Unit on campus, assuring the college talented students — men and women — during wartime. When he retired, in 1944, Gray had increased the student enrollment to more than 700.
Charles Franklin Phillips, whose selection at age thirty-four made him the college's youngest president, was a professor at Colgate University and a leading economist before coming to Bates. Phillips is credited with bringing sound business acumen to the college and with encouraging students to link their academic experiences with future careers. He initiated the Bates Plan of Education, a liberal arts "core" study program, and a "3/4 Option" that allowed students to complete their college education in three years. He also directed expansions of campus facilities, including the Memorial Commons, the Health Center, Dana Chemistry Hall, Pettigrew Hall, Treat Gallery, Schaeffer Theatre, and Page Hall. Phillips' legacy continues to serve Bates directly. In 1998, he and his wife, Evelyn M. Phillips, made what was at the time one of the largest presidential bequests ever to an American college. The Phillips Endowment now supports student and faculty research fellowships, two endowed professorships, and academic programs.
Thomas Hedley Reynolds assumed the presidency in 1967. His greatest achievement was the development of an extraordinarily talented faculty, which brought Bates recognition as a national college. In addition to recruiting outstanding teacher-scholars, Reynolds championed better faculty pay, an expanded sabbatical leave program, and smaller classes. He also worked to include more women in the faculty. A historian, Reynolds' own experience as a professor at Middlebury College made him keenly aware of the link between great teaching and scholarship, and he did much to encourage faculty research and creativity. Under his leadership, Bates joined the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC). He also guided the college through a tumultuous period of social change, when students resisted the conservative sensibilities left over from the 1950s and demanded their own voice in decisions made by the college.
Additions to the campus under Reynolds' presidency included the George and Helen Ladd Library, Merrill Gymnasium and the Tarbell Pool, the Olin Arts Center and the Bates College Museum of Art, as well as the conversion of the former women's gymnasium into the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and the acquisition of the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area. Many of the early twentieth-century houses on Frye Street, a popular alternative to larger residential halls, were also acquired at this time.
Donald W. Harward's presidency was distinguished by intellectual rigor, institutional self-examination, and commitment to civic engagement. A former philosophy professor and academic dean at the College of Wooster, Harward began his service as sixth president of Bates in 1989. His leadership was inspired by the notion that "learning is a moral activity that carries responsibility beyond the self." He challenged students and faculty to see how the college's traditional values of egalitarianism, service, and social justice created a moral imperative to connect intellectual life to the world beyond Bates. During Harward's presidency, students received greater opportunities to study off campus with Bates faculty or in college-approved programs. He secured funding to support student research under the direction of Bates teacher-scholars or at other institutions. He integrated more fully into student intellectual life the senior thesis, the important capstone experience that has been a part of the Bates curriculum since the early twentieth century but is now a focal point.
Under Harward, Bates reached out to the community of Lewiston-Auburn in new and mutually beneficial ways. Bates students and faculty built relationships in the community through one of the most active community-based learning programs in the country. Harward helped Bates provide a national model of ways in which colleges and universities can advance academic excellence and intellectual autonomy while they engage with and support local communities.
Harward worked to diversify both the faculty and its curricular offerings. He oversaw the development of a number of new academic programs, including eight in areas of interdisciplinary study. He expanded opportunities for faculty research and tripled the number of endowed professorships. More than twenty major academic, residential, and athletic facilities were built during his tenure, including Pettengill Hall, the Residential Village and Benjamin E. Mays Center, and the Bates College Coastal Center at Shortridge.
Elaine Tuttle Hansen became the college's seventh president in 2002 and served until 2011. A former professor of English and provost at Haverford College, she worked to enhance the traditional strengths of Bates: open and intense intellectual inquiry; individualized student and faculty interactions in a historic residential setting; and a community unified by the ethical principles of integrity, egalitarianism, and social responsibility.
During her presidency, the college developed greater resources for financial aid, increased diversity of the faculty and student body, and strengthened environmental sustainability and stewardship, including development of the college's Climate Action Plan, which anticipates carbon neutrality across the Bates enterprise by 2020. Under Hansen, the faculty approved in 2006 sweeping reforms to the General Education curriculum required of all students as part of their academic experience. As pathway for navigating the array of academic offerings, in both classes and non-course-based experiences, the reforms help students develop knowledge from multiple and interdisciplinary perspectives. The reforms also extend the Bates academic imperative that asks students to open their minds to new ways to achieve intellectual freedom and civic responsibility.
Hansen led institutional planning initiatives in the realms of facilities and academics, among others. Academically, Bates embarked upon deeper integration of ideas and practices in the arts, natural sciences and mathematics, and learning across the entire Bates experience. Facilities master planning yielded a new 150-bed residence on College Street (2007); a new dining Commons (2008) preserving the Bates tradition of centralized student dining; and the renovation and expansion of historic Roger Williams and Hedge halls (2011) for academic use, blending architectural preservation with forward-looking standards for sustainability and energy efficiency.
College vice president Nancy J. Cable served as interim Bates president in 2011–2012. A national leader in higher education, Cable's vigorous stewardship inspired strategic, institution-wide discussions about the state of Bates and higher education nationally. Programs during her tenure included Open to the World, comprising distinctive academic events celebrating the reopening of Hedge and Roger Williams halls and showcasing the reach of a Bates education across national and interdisciplinary boundaries; the Leadership Symposium on College Cost, Price and Financial Aid, joining the national dialogue about higher education cost and value; and the Common Grounds forums, presentations about campus topics that promoted transparency and dialogue about the work of the college.
Following an international search, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the appointment of Ava Clayton Spencer as the eighth president of Bates College, effective July 2012.
As vice president for policy at Harvard University, Spencer built a reputation as a collaborative and extraordinarily effective higher education leader during her fifteen years of service to that institution. In the 1990s, Spencer served as chief education counsel in the U.S. Senate, working for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Spencer's academic training includes a bachelor's degree from Williams College in history and German; a bachelor of arts degree in theology from Oxford; a master's degree in the study of religion from Harvard; and a J.D. degree from Yale Law School.
In June, giving the 2012 Reunion Address to alumni shortly before taking office, Spencer looked to the future of Bates in a speech infused with optimism. In the coming years, she said, Bates will need "to make a virtue of our particularity, our distinctive history and identity. To engage the large, complex, dizzying forces that are coming at us, we have to stand somewhere, and we have to stand somewhere firm." That solid foundation comprises Bates' founding values, its location, and its reputation, qualities — in particular, Bates' bedrock egalitarianism — that confer the institution's significance and distinctiveness and are prized by students.
Bates, she said, practices "not a vague kind of politically correct inclusiveness, but instead the inclusiveness that says, 'We are here to encounter each other as humans with potential, with gifts.' The greatest opportunity that anybody can have as a human is the opportunity to realize those gifts. That's in the fabric of who we are."
The Faculty and Students. The faculty exemplifies the college's commitment to academic excellence and intellectual rigor. Faculty members' professional lives encompass scholarship and research, but they are at Bates because they are dedicated first and foremost to teaching undergraduates. As of October 2011, 100 percent of tenured or tenure-track faculty members hold the Ph.D. or another terminal degree. Bates students work directly with faculty; the student-faculty ratio is 10-to-1, and faculty members teach all classes. More than 66 percent of class sections, excluding independent studies, have fewer than twenty students enrolled. A Bates education serves graduates well and offers excellent preparation for further study and careers. More than 70 percent of recent alumni have earned graduate or professional degrees within ten years of graduation. The approximately 1,750 students on campus and 250 studying abroad come from forty-two states, districts, and territories and sixty-six other countries. The college is recognized for its inclusive social character; there have never been fraternities or sororities, and student organizations are open to all.
The Curriculum. In their academic work Bates students are encouraged to explore broadly and deeply, to cross disciplines, and to grow as independent thinkers. The college offers thirty-eight fields of study (with thirty-three majors and twenty-four minors) as well as opportunities for guided interdisciplinary study. Bates is one of a small number of colleges and universities requiring a senior thesis to complete most majors. The senior thesis provides an opportunity for extended, closely guided research and writing, performance, or studio work. A growing number of students collaborate with faculty in their research during the academic year and through the summer; each summer between sixty and eighty students receive support from the college to pursue research. Bates recognizes the special role that international study plays in providing students with the perspective and the opportunities that lead to international careers or service as well as a sense of world citizenship. About 65 percent of students study abroad for a semester or longer during their time at Bates, one of the highest rates in the nation.
Community Engagement. Bates has long understood that liberal education includes the development of social responsibility and civic engagement. A Bates education seeks to connect learning to action, a connection expressed by high levels of student participation in academic and volunteer community work, as well as by graduates' choice of careers and community leadership. Many faculty members routinely incorporate community-based learning and research into their courses, and about half of Bates students are involved in a wide variety of community-based projects with more than 165 public and private agencies.
Bates is committed to its home communities of Lewiston and Auburn, together constituting Maine's second-largest urban area, which provide a valued setting that enriches Bates' educational mission and social life. The college intends its many forms of engagement beyond campus to be true partnerships, drawing on the strengths of all partners for mutual benefit. The Donald W. and Ann M. Harward Center for Community Partnerships, named for the college's sixth president and his late wife, provides an institutional hub for community-based learning and research by students and faculty, volunteer community service, and civic engagement.
The Campus. Bates is located on a 109-acre traditional New England campus. Academic and cultural resources on campus include the George and Helen Ladd Library, the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, and the Olin Arts Center, which houses a concert hall and the Bates College Museum of Art. The college also holds access to the 574-acre Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area, in Phippsburg, Maine, which includes stunning coastal wetlands and preserves one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier beaches on the Atlantic coast. The neighboring Bates College Coastal Center at Shortridge includes an eighty-acre woodland and freshwater habitat.
Consistent with its purpose of providing the benefits of a small residential college, Bates has limited its admissions and grown slowly, yet has also pursued an ambitious program of construction and equipment acquisition to support teaching. Carnegie Science Hall and Dana Chemistry Hall have facilities for research-based independent student work and provide laboratory space for the college's interdisciplinary programs in biological chemistry and neuroscience. Study of the sciences also has been enriched by the addition of major scientific instruments. The Bates College Imaging and Computing Center enhances and supports teaching, learning, research, and creative work in all disciplines that benefit from the visual representation of information. In Pettengill Hall, teaching spaces, laboratories, student research centers, and facilities for eleven social science departments and interdisciplinary programs provide an arena for intellectual interaction. Newly renovated Hedge Hall holds offices, classrooms, and student workspaces for environmental studies, philosophy, and religious studies. Roger Williams Hall houses the language programs in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish, as well as the Office of Off-Campus Study. These buildings are designed to foster the connection between the formal and informal learning that is the hallmark of a residential college.
Other student life facilities at Bates are varied and well-equipped. Athletic facilities include the Joseph A. Underhill Ice Arena, the Davis Fitness Center; James G. Wallach Tennis Center, twice the venue for NCAA championship play; the Bates Squash Center; two synthetic turf fields; and the Bert Andrews Room, providing enhanced cardio and fitness facilities. The Merrill Gymnasium was renovated and resurfaced in 2009. The Marcy Plavin Dance Studio, named in honor of the founding director of the Bates dance program, includes two studios and a warm-up area.
Alumni. The educational mission of the college is supported generously by a significant percentage of its over 24,000 alumni who have made a lifetime commitment to their alma mater. The college's alumni, living in all fifty states and around the world, remain actively connected to Bates in various ways. Thousands of alumni volunteers serve annually as admission representatives, career resource people, fundraisers, Reunion volunteers, and regional leaders. The college's endowment provides resources for financial aid, academic programs, faculty and student research and general support of the educational mission. At the close of the 2011 fiscal year, the college's endowment investments were valued at over $231.5 million, and the endowment supported 13.3% of the college's operating budget.
Bates is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the American Chemical Society. It maintains chapters of Phi Beta Kappa and of Sigma Xi, the national scientific research and honor society.
Statement of Community Principles
Membership in the Bates community requires that individuals hold themselves and others responsible for honorable conduct at all times. Together we create the educational and social setting that makes Bates College unique, with an atmosphere characterized by trust and mutual concern. Our actions must support our ability to work, study, live, and learn together productively and safely. We are dedicated as a community to intellectual honesty and to the protection of academic freedom. These values are fundamental to scholarship, teaching, and learning. We expect one another to maintain the highest integrity in all of our academic, social, and work-related undertakings.