LEWISTON — As a teen in a tough Newark neighborhood, John Jenkins had been surprised to find himself invited to a nice Manhattan office to meet with Milton Lindholm, the longtime dean of admissions at Bates College. He was surprised to find himself being courted by the school, given a chance.
Lindholm would be the reason Jenkins came to Maine.
“He gave a kid like me from North New Jersey an opportunity for a better life than what I was facing at the time,” said Jenkins, the former mayor of both Lewiston and Auburn. “That man, I owe him big time … I literally became more because he believed that I could.”
Lindholm died Saturday at 98. Friends remembered him Monday as funny, kind and patient, and a great match for his wife of 71 years, Jane.
Wendy Ault said that many times she’d be walking with her aunt and uncle when people would come up and introduce themselves.
“‘I’m one of Milton’s hunches,’ or ‘Milton took a chance on me.’ I think he always looked for someone’s promise,” Ault said.
Lindholm, a Bates Class of 1935 graduate, was the school’s first dean of admissions, a post he kept for 32 years.
“Dean Lindholm’s first task was to replace the male side of the campus. Virtually all the available men had been soaked up by World War II,” said Bill Hiss, a Class of 1966 graduate and a former dean of admissions at Bates.
He helped create what the position meant, leading by example, Hiss said. Lindholm came in contact with thousands of students whom, Hiss said, he never forgot.
“Even in his late 90s … if I had asked him about my college essay of 1962 he would have been able to tell me why it was only so-so,” Hiss said.
State Rep. Peggy Rotundo said when she first moved to Lewiston people told her, “You really need to meet the Lindholms.”
He gave good advice, she said, and was very encouraging. When not in the Legislature, she works at Bates’ Harward Center for Community Partnership, next to the Lindholm building, the admission’s office named for him.
Kim Wettlaufer of Lewiston, a Class of 1980 graduate, said he got to know Lindholm through a mutual interest in track and cross country. Wettlaufer visited the couple every other week at the Nelke Place home where they lived for 65 years. Both were people who retired but stayed interested and active in the community, he said.
In December, they told Wettlaufer they wanted to try Somali food. “I said, ‘I can make that happen.’ They loved it.”
Jenkins said he also kept in touch with Lindholm. “We often chatted and laughed about (Jenkins’) crazy days of saying, ‘I want to get out of here; I can’t take it.’ He counseled me. I guess I was looking for an easier way. He said, ‘No, this was good.’”
Lindholm took the time to mentor kids before it was called that, Jenkins said. It’s why, he said, he takes the time now to do the same.
“I just want to be like Milton Lindholm to them,” he said.
Ault said her aunt and uncle moved from Lewiston to Brunswick in January when he began needing more care. The couple have two children, Martha and Karl.
Plans were being made Monday for a memorial service at the college, tentatively at the Bates Chapel later this month.