‘Pretty cool’: Proud and grateful for her time at Bates, President Spencer offers final remarks

Clayton Spencer’s final remarks as the college’s eighth president were among her most personal.

Delivered to Bates alumni of the last 70 years at Reunion on June 10, Spencer’s address during the Annual Gathering of the Alumni Association was as multigenerational as her audience’s, hearkening back to her first experience living at a liberal arts college, at Davidson, when her father was president.

“I was a child living in the Davidson president’s house in the ’60s, with my brother’s rock band, complete with scraggly hair and ratty jeans, practicing in the garage behind the dorms. I was taking it all in.”

Left, a poignant moment during the installation: Clayton Spencer hoists her academic cap, the same one that her father, Samuel Reid Spencer Jr. — now 93 and seen below with his daughter after the ceremony — wore as president of Mary Baldwin College and Davidson College. From an early age, Clayton recently told The Chronicle of Higher Education, she experienced the liberal arts college as a “distinctive alchemy of people and ideas.” Photograph by Rene Minnis
On Oct. 26, 2012, the day of Clayton Spencer’s installation as Bates’ eighth president, she sits with her father, Samuel Reid Spencer Jr., who was president of Davidson College when Clayton was growing up. (Rene Roy for Bates College)

Spending the last 11 years as Bates’ president has been “pretty cool,” Spencer said, to be able to conclude “this phase of my life as I began it — living on a liberal arts campus among a bunch of 18- to 22-year-olds at such an intense and dynamic time in their own development.”

And about those 18- to 22-year-olds that she’s lived (very) close to over the last 11 years at Bates? 

They are “still curious. They are idealistic,” Spencer said. “They care about the world, they are developing their agency, and they want to gain the knowledge and tools to solve the world’s hardest problems. They are generous and kind and open. And they are very funny.”

To her personal recollections, which included anecdotes about those funny Bates students, Spencer added her thanks. “I am proud and grateful to be associated with this fabulous college that you guys are lucky enough to claim as your own,” she told the alumni, concluding her address with these words:

”If I’ve learned one thing over the past 11 years, it is this: It’s always a great day to be a Bobcat.”