Great Bates

“In Bates’ time-honored tradition of modesty, the school doesn’t tend to glorify its past,” says history major Darcy York ’05. “But it’s time to start.”

In that pioneering spirit — and with Bates beginning its 150th anniversary celebration in 2005 — York has created a series of photographic exhibits on campus, using images from the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library.

One exhibit is a display of 12 Bates greats, the sort of no-brainer household names on any short list of Bates notables. Represented are the past presidents (Cheney, Chase, Gray, Phillips, Reynolds, Harward); two notable “firsts,” Henry Chandler 1874, the first African American graduate, and Mary Wheelwright Mitchell 1869, the first female grad; legendary profs Jonathan Stanton and Brooks Quimby ’18; and two alumni at the forefront of U.S. social, educational, and environmental movements, Benjamin Mays ’20 and Edmund Muskie ’36.

Of the 12, York says that Chandler and Mitchell “hold a special place in Bates history, because they illustrate Cheney’s mission, to provide education to anyone, regardless of race or sex.” Each pioneer overcame challenges to attend Bates, but Mitchell had it worse. A newspaper story once noted how the male students, outnumbering her six to one, were “alien, derising, intolerant, and entirely out of step with President Cheney’s plan for college education for women.”