Bates College President Clayton Spencer, seen here addressing a roundtable discussion earlier this year on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, will be leaving the Lewiston school in 2023, the college announced Wednesday. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

LEWISTON — The president of Bates College announced Wednesday she will step down following the next academic year.

When Clayton Spencer leaves the college in June 2023, she will have led the liberal arts institution for 11 years.

“I have loved my time at Bates,” Spencer wrote in a message to the Bates community. “On my first trip to campus in December 2011, when I was introduced to the Bates community, I was so impressed by the students I met and thrilled to get a sense, firsthand, of the beautiful work our faculty and staff do every day to make Bates the extraordinary place it is. I have felt so lucky to be part of this community, and I am proud of all that we have accomplished together.”

Her tenure was marked with strong financial investments in the college. Bates more than doubled its endowment from $216 million in 2012 to $466 million in 2021, building two dormitories and a new science building, additionally adding an interdisciplinary computer science department to its academic program.

In May, the college announced it had successfully raised $336 million over six years, the largest campaign in college history.

“We have been incredibly fortunate to have Clayton as Bates’ president over these past 10 years,” said Michael Bonney, former chair of the board of trustees and a member of the search committee that brought Spencer to Bates. “Throughout her presidency, Clayton has identified the forces shaping society and higher education and found opportunities for creative action. We would not be preparing to close the largest campaign in the college’s history without the vision, energy and effectiveness she communicated so powerfully to Bates’ alumni and supporters.”


The student body also grew more diverse under her leadership. The class of 2025 is the most geographically and racially diverse class in the college’s history, with 27% identifying as U.S. students of color and 65% of U.S. students coming from outside of New England.

“Clayton has been a transformative leader for Bates, giving new shape and meaning to the power of a liberal arts education for today’s world,” said John Gillespie, a member of the class of 1980 and chair of the Bates College board of trustees. “She has also guided the college through the extraordinary challenges of the past several years with exceptional clarity and a steady hand.”

Her tenure has not been without controversy. The college has seen significant changes in athletic and academic leadership in the last 10 years, and her administration has been accused of union-busting actions against ongoing unionization efforts by staff and nontenured faculty.

Her administration has also faced criticism over its handling of race-related problems, with at least two former staff members accusing the college of racial discrimination in lawsuits and a major student protest in October 2020.

Spencer became the eighth president in the college’s 167-year history in 2012, succeeding Elaine Tuttle Hansen. Before coming to Bates, Spencer spent more than 15 years on Harvard University’s senior leadership team.

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