Presidential Timeline

A selection of BatesNews stories from President Clayton Spencer’s time at Bates, from appointment in 2011 to Commencement 2023.

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December 4

Clayton Spencer elected eighth president of Bates

“Clayton Spencer is a true national leader in higher education,” says Michael Bonney ’80, chair of the Bates Board of Trustees during the announcement. “She understands Bates in a very personal way, endorsing its innovative approach to the academic curriculum and its unpretentious ambition for excellence in all aspects of the liberal arts.”

October 26

‘The embodiment of Bates values,’ Spencer is installed as president

Bates formally installs its eighth president before a gathering of 2,500. “We know who we are and what we stand for, and we stand ready – together — to challenge ourselves and to engage the world,” Spencer says.


June 15

Clayton Spencer begins a new relationship with her new college

Clayton Spencer’s rise as a U.S. higher education leader culminates in her debut as president-elect of Bates — and her avowed commitment to leading Bates toward a stronger marriage of excellence and opportunity.

July 2

First day of school: President Clayton Spencer

Bates President Clayton Spencer and James Reese, associate dean of students, share a moment of deja vu Monday morning as the eighth president of the college begins her first week in office. The two were high school classmates.

September 5

Convocation 2012 reveals common ground in art of compromise

In her first speech to the Bates community, Spencer shares vignettes of her experiences working for Senator Kennedy to impart a message of compromise: “Always keep your larger goals in mind. And remember that you have to step back sometimes to reframe a problem in order to make progress.”

October 26

‘The embodiment of Bates values,’ Spencer is installed as president

Bates formally installs Ava Clayton Spencer, described by her former boss as the “embodiment of Bates values,” as its eighth president before a gathering of 2,500 on Friday afternoon.


September 3

‘Some Thoughts on Work’

In her Convocation speech, Spencer explores ideas that will form the basis of her Purposeful Work initiative. “The more you are able to align your work with your authentic interests and talents, the less it feels like work, and the more it feels, simply, like living your life,” she says.

October 28

$11.5 million Catalyst Fund will support ‘transformational change’ at Bates College

President Spencer and Michael Bonney ‘80, chair of the Board of Trustees, announce the Catalyst Fund at a special campus gathering. The money will be spent over five years to move forward on key college initiatives: the Engaged Liberal Arts, Purposeful Work, and Excellence and Opportunity.

December 19

New residence halls on Campus Avenue begin the Campus Life Project

Bates President Clayton Spencer announces that the College will build new residence halls on Campus Avenue as the first step of a Campus Life Project intended to establish a dynamic center of college life on the south side of campus. 


April 17

Short Term, alive and kicking and ‘optimized for experimentation,’ begins April 21

At a presidential event in Boston, President Clayton Spencer discusses Bates’ famed Short Term and big developments underway to widen the possibilities of courses offered, honoring Short Term’s founding tradition of innovation.


June 16

President Spencer honored with degree from Bishop’s University

President Clayton Spencer receives an honorary degree from Bishop’s University in Quebec, an institution devoted to the “liberal education of undergraduates.”

May 19

Multimedia: President Spencer’s event in New York City with Bryant Gumbel ’70 and Michael Chu ’80

At the Bates College Presidential Event at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art in New York City, President Clayton Spencer joins broadcast journalist Bryant Gumbel ’70 and Trustee Emeritus Michael Chu ‘80, P ’12 in a candid conversation on “the liberal arts in an age of disruption”.


February 8

Bates announces gifts of $19 million to create six new endowed professorships and launch the college’s new digital and computational studies program

“I am enormously grateful for the generosity of this group of families who have chosen to support our most important priority — the academic program — in the most substantial way possible, through gifts to the endowment,” says Bates President Clayton Spencer at a festive campus announcement celebration Friday.

October 28

Bates announces $10 million gift from Elizabeth Kalperis Chu ’80 and Michael Chu ’80 to name new residence halls

President Clayton Spencer announces that two new residence halls at Bates College will be named for Elizabeth Kalperis Chu ‘80 and J. Michael Chu ‘80 in recognition of their $10 million commitment to the college. 

November 1

Bates dedicates new rowing boathouse, ‘a place to call home’

President Clayton Spencer joins a gathering of teammates, coaches, families, friends, and college leaders in a housewarming event to celebrate Bates rowing program’s new boathouse on the Androscoggin in Greene. 

November 7

President Spencer issues statement on “Information about Election Day and registering to vote”

In response to a flyer that was circulated on the Bates campus with false information about the upcoming election, President Spencer issues a statement with accurate information on how students can vote. 

*from the President’s page

December 14

Bates joins select U.S. colleges in major access initiative

“We are proud to join the American Talent Initiative,”says President Spencer, a longtime champion of improved access to education. “At a time when we’re too often reminded of issues that divide us, education remains the great equalizer in our society.”


May 16

Historic $300 million Bates Campaign aims to ‘secure what is best and most distinctive about Bates and to shape new strategies for a new age’

The most ambitious fundraising effort in Bates history aims to “secure what is best and most distinctive about Bates and to shape new strategies for a new age,” President Clayton Spencer tells a record-setting crowd of Bates supporters who gathered in Boston on Tuesday evening for the first of two launch events for the $300 million Bates Campaign.

May 25

Harvard honors Bates President Spencer for service

A senior administrator at Harvard University before coming to Bates, President Clayton Spencer is honored with a Harvard Medal.

June 20

Q&A: Novelist Elizabeth Strout ’77 interviewed by President Spencer

President Spencer chats with The Pulitzer Prize–winning author about her approach to writing, being an English major at Bates, and how being a Mainer has given her the “opposite of a worldview.”

December 8

President Spencer op-ed: Tax bills ‘constrict access to education’

Spencer writes that Congress’ current efforts at tax reform represent a puzzling “assault on educational opportunity.” 


May 2 

With Purposeful Work, Bates provides an education ‘fit for the future of work’

The brilliance of what’s happening at Bates under President Clayton Spencer, explains reporter Jenny Anderson, is that “Spencer comes at the happiness question from a slightly different angle.”

May 17

Public Art Committee spearheads project: “Veterans’ Recognition at Bates”

President Spencer announces a new plan to create a public space on campus to recognize the service and sacrifice of members of the Bates community who are military veterans and to invite reflection on the broader implications of war.

*from the President’s page

July 5

Bates wins $1 million grant for equity-driven STEM innovations

“A commitment to access and equity runs deep in our history and mission,” says President Clayton Spencer. “A Bates offer of admission has always stood as a vote of confidence in a student’s talent and potential to make important contributions to our world. This grant will deepen our capacity and speed our progress toward making good on this promise for all students interested in science.” 

September 21

$3 million gift endows Bates professorship in STEM equity and inclusion; April Hill named inaugural appointee

Funded by a $3 million gift, a new Bates College professorship dedicated to STEM equity and inclusion will be held by Professor of Biology April Hill, announces President Clayton Spencer.

October 12

Bates dedicates Traquina Boathouse, culminating $2.7 million giving effort

“The Traquina name represents incredible dedication by a Bates family to our college and our rowing program,” President Clayton Spencer says. 

October 25

Bates awarded $1.2 million grant to create an inclusive 21st-century curriculum in the humanities

“This grant comes at a crucial moment for Bates,” says President Clayton Spencer. “Moving forward, we must ensure that our teaching and curriculum excite the interest and creativity of all our students, preparing them to function as leaders in a pluralistic society.” 


January 18

Video: Washington Post interviews Clayton Spencer about Purposeful Work innovations

Joining a select group of nine U.S. education leaders for an edition of Washington Post Live on Thursday, President Clayton Spencer explains that Bates’ Purposeful Work initiative meets a major – though not always fulfilled – responsibility of a liberal arts college: helping students find jobs that feel meaningful. 

April 11

Bates-Gallup study finds ‘purpose gap’ between what college graduates seek and find in their work

“Purposeful work is work that aligns how you act in the world with your deepest interests, values, and strengths,” Spencer tells Ryan, adding that the key to closing the purpose gap “is to make sure you are producing students who have agency and adaptability throughout a lifetime.”

April 8

Picture story: Full-court fun for faculty, staff, and student hoopsters

President Spencer joins some full-court fun as students, faculty, and staff join together as teammates to compete in a friendly pickup game of hoops in the Alumni Gym. 


March 22

Following campus evacuation due to COVID-19, Bates President issues “Greetings from Campus”

President Spencer addresses the Bates community following the unprecedented evacuation of campus and transition to remote learning. 

*From the President’s page

June 15

Bates President issues statement on “The Work of Antiracism at Bates”

In light of rampant police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, President Spencer issues a statement on Bates’ resolve to deepen the College’s protection of and investment in black, brown, and indigenous members of our community at every level. 

*From the President’s page


September 23

President’s Statement: “Equity, Inclusion, and Antiracism Work at Bates: Report on Progress and Planning”

President Spencer reports on the progress of the College’s advancement of Equity, Inclusion and Antiracism work. She writes, “The work of equity, inclusion, and antiracism is central to achieving our core mission of providing an education that is meant to transform lives. No student can learn and grow and realize their full potential unless they are seen and valued, and in turn feel that they belong at Bates and Bates belongs to them. This only happens if we are willing to question, and modify, our inherited norms in what and how we teach, in how we see and portray ourselves as an institution, and in how we organize and support all aspects of college life.”

*From the President’s page


March 16

Bates College announces plan to become climate positive by 2030

Meeting the goals of the Bates Sustainability Roadmap will “touch and enrich our lives here on campus,” says President Clayton Spencer, while also furthering the college’s stated mission of “to prepare leaders with a commitment to responsible stewardship of the wider world.” 

June 22

Clayton Spencer to step down as Bates president on June 30, 2023

Bates President Clayton Spencer announces that she will conclude her tenure at the end of the next academic year, on June 30, 2023. “Clayton has been a transformative leader for Bates, giving new shape and meaning to the power of a liberal arts education for today’s world,” says John Gillespie ‘80, chair of the Bates College Board of Trustees.

August 26

President Spencer issues “A Word of Thanks for the Success of the Bates Campaign”

First announced in 2017, the Bates Campaign pledged to raise an ambitious $300 million to support key priorities for the college. Upon its completion on June 30, Bates President Clayton Spencer announces that the campaign has surpassed its goal to raise a whopping $345.7 million.

*From the President’s page

December 20

Leana E. Amáez to join Bates College as vice president for equity and inclusion

“I am thrilled to welcome Leana to Bates to lead our work in equity and inclusion – work that is central to our mission and to the success and well-being of every member of our community,” says Bates President Clayton Spencer.