Founded in 1855, Bates was New England's first coeducational college. The founders of Bates were abolitionists, and several of the college's earliest students were former slave Originally called the Maine State Seminary, it replaced the Parsonsfield Seminary, which burned under mysterious circumstances in 1854.The Parsonsfield Seminary was founded in 1832 by Free Will Baptists and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Parsonsfield's Cobb Divinity School, founded in 1840, merged with Bates in 1870 and eventually became Bates' religion department. Bates' religion department is thus 15 years older than the College. As with many New England institutions, religion played a vital role in the college's founding. The Reverend Oren Burbank Cheney founded and served as the first president of Bates. He was a Freewill Baptist minister, a teacher, and a former Maine legislator. Cheney and Rev. Ebenezer Knowlton steered through the Maine Legislature a bill creating an educational corporation initially called the Maine State Seminary. Dr. Alonzo Garcelon convinced Cheney and Knowlton to locate the school in Lewiston, Maine's fastest-growing industrial and commercial center. Cheney assembled a six-person faculty dedicated to teaching the classics and moral philosophy to both men and women. In 1863 he received a collegiate charter, and obtained financial support for an expansion from the city of Lewiston and from Benjamin E. Bates, the Boston financier and manufacturer whose mills dominated the local riverfront. In 1864 the Maine State Seminary was renamed Bates College. The College consisted of Hathorn and Parker halls and a student body of fewer than 100. 1857 lithograph image of Bates College from an early college catalogue Nearly 200 students and alumni of the College and Seminary served in the American Civil War (1861ï¿½65). Two students from Georgia were the only ones to fight for the Confederacy. With Cheney's support, Mary Wheelwright Mitchell became the first woman to graduate from a New England college, class of 1869. Cheney ensured that no secret societies or fraternities were allowed on campus. One secret society was founded at Bates in 1881, but the society was not sanctioned by the President or the College. By the end of Cheney's tenure, in 1894, the campus had expanded to 50 acres (20 ha) and six buildings. In 1894 George Colby Chase, Class of 1868, succeeded President Cheney. Known as "the great builder," Chase oversaw the construction of eleven new buildings, including Coram Library, the Chapel, Chase Hall, Carnegie Science Hall, and Rand Hall. Chase tripled the number of students and faculty, as well as the endowment. He discontinued the Cobb Divinity School and Nichols Latin School departments of the College. In 1907 at the request of Chase and the Board, the legislature amended the college's charter removing the requirement for the President and majority of the trustees to be Free Will Baptists; this change to a non-sectarian status allowed the school to qualify for Carnegie Foundation funding for professor pensions. Benjamin E. Bates, patron of Bates College In 1920 Clifton Daggett Gray, a clergyman and former editor of The Standard, a Baptist periodical published in Chicago, succeeded President Chase. On campus, renovations were completed on Libbey Forum and the Hedge Science Laboratory, and the Clifton Daggett Gray Athletic Building, Alumni Gymnasium, Stephens Observatory telescope, and Women's Locker Building (now the Muskie Archives) were constructed. During World War II, when male students abandoned college campuses to enlist in the armed forces, Gray established a V-12 Navy College Training Program Unit on campus, assuring the College students - men and women - during wartime. When he retired, in 1944, Gray had increased the student enrollment to more than 700 and doubled the faculty to seventy; the endowment had doubled to $2 million. In 1944 Charles Franklin Phillips, a professor at Colgate University and a leading economist, became Bates' fourth president. He initiated the Bates Plan of Education, a liberal arts "core" study program. He also directed expansions of campus facilities, including the Memorial Commons, the Health Center, Dana Chemistry Hall, Pettigrew Hall, Treat Gallery, Schaeffer Theatre, and Page Hall. When he retired in 1967, Phillips left a student body of 1,000 and an endowment of $7 million. In 1967 Thomas Hedley Reynolds assumed the presidency. His greatest achievement was the development and support of faculty, which brought Bates recognition as a national college. In addition to recruiting teacher-scholars, Reynolds championed better faculty pay, an expanded sabbatical leave program, and smaller classes. The modern day chapel, home to many lectures and musical performances throughout the year Additions to the campus under Reynolds' presidency included the George and Helen Ladd Library, Merrill Gymnasium and the Tarbell Pool, the Olin Arts Center and the Bates College Museum of Art, as well as the conversion of the former women's gymnasium into the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and the acquisition of the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area. Many of the early 20th-century houses on Frye Street that now accommodate students, a popular alternative to larger residential halls, were acquired at this time. Donald West Harward began his service as sixth president of Bates in 1989. During Harward's presidency, students received greater opportunities to study off campus with Bates faculty or in College-approved programs. He integrated more fully into student academic and intellectual life the senior thesis, the important capstone experience that has been a part of the Bates curriculum since the early 20th century but is now a focal point. Under Harward, Bates for the first time in many years reached out institutionally into the community of Lewiston-Auburn. Bates students and faculty built relationships in the community through one of the most active service-learning programs in the country. More than twenty major academic, residential, and athletic facilities were built during his tenure, including Pettengill Hall, the Residential Village and Benjamin E. Mays Center, and the Bates College Coastal Center at Shortridge. Elaine Tuttle Hansen served as Bates' seventh president from 2002 through June 30, 2011. Hansen's accomplishments include strengthened student diversity, expanded facilities through a campus master plan process, and completion of a major fundraising effort, "The Campaign for Bates: Endowing Our Values," which ended in June 2006 and raised nearly $121 million, $1 million more than its stated goal. Facilities improvements include a new student residence, new campus walkway, new dining commons, and the renovation and expansion of two historic buildings, Hedge and Rogers Williams halls, for academic use. Hansen is now executive director of the Center for Talented Youth at The Johns Hopkins University. On July 1, 2011, Nancy J. Cable became interim president, to serve through June 30, 2012, while Bates conducted a national search for its eighth president. Cable joined Bates in February 2010 as vice president and dean of enrollment and external affairs. On December 4, 2011, the Board of Trustees announced Clayton Spencer as the College's 8th President, to assume her duties on July 1, 2012.
Many notable individuals have attended Bates College, including Civil War hero Holman S. Melcher (1862), prominent biologist and professor Herbert E. Walter (1892), president of Morehouse College and mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. Benjamin Mays (1920), U.S. Secretary of State Edmund Muskie (1936), Assistant Surgeon General Dr. George I Lythcott (1939), U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (1944ï¿½45 as part of the Navy's V-12 program), Harvard minister and theologian Peter J. Gomes (1965), award-winning television journalist Bryant Gumbel (1970), U.S. Representative Robert Goodlatte (1974), CEO of Medco Health Solutions David B. Snow Jr. (1976), author and 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout (1977), corporate vice president at Microsoft Rick Thompson (1981), award-winning investigative reporter and news presenter Jonathan Hall (1983), published bioengineer John R. Hetling (1989), editor of Time Magazine Online Joshua Macht (1991), blues musician Corey Harris (1991), and neuroscientist and author Lisa Genova (1992).