LEWISTON — In its quest for a new leader, Bates College is looking for “an engaged and galvanizing president whose intellect and experience will inspire confidence in the community.”

It hopes to find the right person by spring, in plenty of time to fill the elite college’s top job when the current president, Clayton Spencer, steps down in June.

A search committee has spent weeks developing a list of “ideal qualities and characteristics” that it seeks in a leader who can oversee the college’s $419 million endowment, more than 800 employees and 2,000 students.

Hathorn Hall, the oldest building at Bates College, erected in 1857. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

The 19-member search committee, which includes four professors and two students, aims to compile a list of potential candidates for the high-profile job this year, weed through it during the winter and recommend someone to the Board of Trustees in late winter or early spring.

Spencer announced in June that she would step down on June 30, 2023, after 11 years at the helm, which has seen the college’s endowment almost double, its campus expand and a unionization effort get underway that may be ongoing when the next president takes office.

The search panel said in a Monday update that it wants the next president to have “a deep commitment to the liberal arts and the Bates mission,” which is to educate “the whole person through creative and rigorous scholarship in a collaborative residential community” as it engages “the transformative power of our differences, cultivating intellectual discovery and informed civic action.”

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A presidential contender, it said, should have “an ability to cultivate trust and build relationships to bring campus constituencies to actionable consensus and the ability to energize and inspire students, faculty, staff, alumni, board members, and external stakeholders around a collective vision.”

Also necessary is a “commitment to high academic quality, rigor, and excellence” as well as a personal and professional record of success “in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, including the recruitment and retention of a diverse and representative population of students, faculty, and staff.”

A president should have “knowledge of current and emerging issues, trends, and strategies in higher education; a keen understanding of enrollment; experience developing strategies to address demographic shifts, including internal and external marketing and communications” and “experience designing, managing, executing, and communicating a collaborative strategic planning process.”

The committee is also angling for a president with “a track record in crisis management,” demonstrated fundraising skills, a clear knowledge of financial accounting and budgeting, experience “building and sustaining relationships” with a wide range of people and institutions” and much more.

Finally, it said, Bates needs a president of “unquestioned integrity, trustworthiness, sound judgment, and ethics.”

Since 1855, the year the college cites for its founding, Bates has had just eight permanent presidents. Only one served a shorter stint than Spencer.

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Oren Cheney, the first president of Bates College Bates College

After the departure of President Elaine Tuttle Hansen in 2011, after nine years, the college turned to an interim president, Nancy Cable, before hiring Spencer in 2012. Hansen was the first woman president at Bates.

The average tenure of a Bates president has been two decades, with the longest term belonging to its first leader, Oren Cheney, who served as president from 1863 to 1894. Cheney had also been in the forefront of creating Bates for a decade before formally adding the presidency of the new college to his accomplishments.

The search committee said that over time, Bates’ commitment to “academic excellence, intellectual exploration and engaged citizenship” has come to define its character.

It said that Spencer’s tenure has made it so “Bates is exceptionally well positioned for its next president because she “has strengthened Bates’ reputation as one of the leading liberal arts colleges” by improving its academic program, advancing its work “in equity and inclusion,” creating “an innovative program to prepare students for lives of meaning and purpose,” improving the college’s infrastructure, boosting its endowment and pulling off its largest fundraising campaign.

A consultant is helping the committee create a list of potential college presidents.


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