LEWISTON — Bates College announced Monday that it will use $19 million in donations — including $10 million from one family, the largest single gift in the college’s history — to fund six new professors and launch a new major.

The gifts come from seven families in all.

“This is a huge moment for Bates, raising $19 million in endowments to our core academic programs,” college President Clayton Spencer told reporters Monday. “It enables us to launch a state-of-the-art program in digital studies. Computer science is one of the fastest-growing majors in the country. It’s absolutely integral to the way fields are moving.”

The $19 million endowment will give the college more annual income to hire a chair of the new department and six new professors in all. The new Digital and Computational Studies program will begin in the fall of 2017, with a major schedule to follow the next year.

The new program will teach coding and programming at the 161-year-old liberal arts college that has about 1,700 students. Three of the new positions will go to the new program; three others, to professors who will teach neuroscience, economics and chemistry.

It’s the first time the college has added faculty in more than a decade.

“For us to raise $19 million in endowment in one fell swoop is enormous,” Spencer said.

She stressed that Bates will not add more students, that it will maintain its “very strong faculty-to-student ratio. This is not about building the student body.”

Dean of Faculty Matthew Auer said the new program will be interdisciplinary. In addition to students who major in the new program, students who want to incorporate digital and computational studies in their program will be able to do so. Bates students have shown great interest in learning digital computational studies.

The program will be taught in the liberal arts style, connecting it to other learning.

It’s one thing for students to understand computer code, “it’s another thing to understand the implications of living in a world that’s dominated by computer technology,” Auer said.

After he hires a chair of the new department, “it’s off to the races for digital computational studies at Bates.”

The largest gift, $10 million, comes from the Bonney family. Spencer called Michael Bonney’s commitment to Bates “unparalleled.”

Bonney, a Bates trustee since 2002 and board chairman since 2010, recently retired as CEO of Cubist Pharmaceuticals, which was sold to Merck pharmaceuticals in January 2015. Cubist makes Cubicin, a popular drug that treats MRSA skin infections.

Bonney and his wife, Alison Grott Bonney, graduated from Bates, as did their three children, his father and grandfather.

Humanity faces daunting challenges, Michael Bonney said in a news release, “but solutions will come, as long as we equip our best young minds with the rigor, imagination and drive to tackle the world’s hardest problems.”

The other $9 million came from George Colony and Ann Colony of Concord, Mass.; Darrell Crate of Hamilton, Mass.; J. Blair Frank and Tena Fishman Frank of Pacific Palisades, Calif.; and three anonymous families.

Bonney said Monday that he and his wife are “very honored to be part of this great group of Bates families who came together and showed deep passion for the college.”


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