What do we know about Bates’ first Irish-born graduate?
Old alumni directories listed the birthplaces of every graduate and non-graduate. So here on St. Patrick’s Day, finding Bates’ first Irish-born graduate was just a matter of thumbing through a book.
And on page 29 of the General Catalogue of Officers and Graduates of Bates College Including Cobb Divinity School, 1863-1891, we found Dennis Joseph Callahan, born in Bishopstown, Ireland, on Christmas Day in 1852.
Of the 25 alumni of the Class of 1876 (the 10th class of graduates), Callahan was the only foreign-born grad. He was one of just four classmates born outside New England, the other locales being Red Wing, Minn., New York City, and Moira, N.Y.
His residence during college was on Lincoln Street, which runs alongside Lewiston’s mill buildings.
He was “fitted” for Bates at Latin Nichols School. Housed in John Bertram Hall, the school was a seminary, a private school offering a high school education, as was the Maine State Seminary that preceded the founding of Bates.
Studying the law under Lewiston lawyer Mandeville Treat Ludden, Callahan was admitted to the bar in 1878 and thereafter emerged as one of Lewiston’s leading citizens.
A member of the Board of Aldermen who served as city solicitor, in 1888 he became a founding director of Maine General Hospital, today’s Central Maine Medical Center.
In 1893, Callahan attended the world’s fair in Chicago as a member of the Maine Board of World’s Fair Managers, appointed by Maine Gov. Edwin Burleigh.
Noting his presidency of the Lewiston school board, a profile in a publication promoting the world’s fair noted that Callahan “had always taken an active and intelligent interest in the success of the Lewiston schools, and has materially aided in placing Lewiston’s schools among the first in New England.”
Callahan was elected superintendent of Lewiston schools in 1909, and in 1914 The Bates Student reported that he had passed his superintendent’s test, receiving a grade of “excellent in every branch, and receiving an AI certificate.”
That year, Callahan reported a balanced school budget of $70,047.57 (including $30 for “transportation of pupils”), noting that Lewiston schools are “supported and encouraged by all the people” and have “maintained a high educational standard during the year.”
Around 1911, Callahan was president of the local Bates alumni association, known as the Stanton Club. On Feb. 3 of that year, Callahan organized a Bates alumni reunion at the club, and the club’s namesake, legendary Bates professor “Uncle Johnny” Stanton, attended.
In 1914, the Student noted that Callahan was among three alumni who were leading the Lewiston Chamber of Commence, including clerk John Reade, Class of 1873, and president William B. Skelton, Class of 1892.
College directories indicated that Callahan lived on upper Lisbon Street during his adult life. He died on June 27, 1919, in Lewiston.