Clayton Spencer Biography

Clayton Spencer became the eighth president of Bates College on July 1, 2012. She came to Bates from Harvard University, where she spent more than 15 years on the university’s senior leadership team.

Before joining Bates, Spencer served for seven years as vice president for policy at Harvard, directing policy initiatives for the university. She previously served as Harvard’s associate vice president for higher education policy as well as acting executive dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Spencer was also a lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, where she taught courses on federal higher education policy.

As the former chief education counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, Spencer worked for the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy from 1993 to 1997. She directed education legislation and policy in the Senate, including federal student aid, science and research policy, the education budget, and technology in education.

Clayton serves on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Annapolis Group of Liberal Arts Colleges, and the Steering Committee of the Coalition for Life Transformative Education. She previously served on the Board of the American Council on Education, where she chaired the Public Policy Committee and was a member of the Executive Committee. She has served as a trustee of Williams College and Phillips Exeter Academy and on the Boards of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network and the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education. She was a member of the 2015 Aspen Institute Task Force on College Opportunity for High Achievers, the work of which resulted in the 2016 launch of the American Talent Initiative.

Earlier in her career, Spencer clerked in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, practiced law at the Boston firm of Ropes & Gray, and prosecuted criminal cases as an assistant U.S. attorney in Boston. She earned a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1985. While at Yale, Spencer was an editor of the Yale Law Journal, winner of the Moot Court competition, and chair of the Public Interest Council.

Spencer received a bachelor’s degree from Williams College in 1977, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in history and German. She earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from Oxford in 1979 and a master of arts degree in the study of religion from Harvard in 1982. In 2015 she received the Doctor of Civil Law honorary degree from Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec.