A. Clayton Spencer, a former Harvard vice president for policy, was inaugurated as the eighth President of Bates College Friday afternoon. The inauguration occurred just a day after the Bates Chapel was named in honor of the late Reverend Peter J. Gomes, Harvard's long-time Pusey Minister and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals.
In her address, Spencer discussed what she saw as the challenges facing higher education and liberal arts colleges like Bates.
“In certain respects, we lag [behind] our peers in wealth and fame and market position,” Spencer said, according to prepared remarks. “But we are not in danger of living someone else’s life. We know who we are and what we stand for, and we stand ready–together–to challenge ourselves and to engage the world.”
President Drew G. Faust, who presented Spencer to an audience of 2,500 people, praised her during the ceremony.
“Clayton Spencer is the embodiment of this institution’s long held dedication to the liberating power of education,” Faust said, according to prepared remarks. “She never lets those around her forget the fundamental purposes of what we do, the human meaning of learning and scholarship, the extraordinary power of schools and colleges to transform lives and transform the world.”
Spencer left Harvard this past June and assumed the Bates presidency in July. Friday’s inauguration made her appointment official.
Spencer served under four University presidents during her time at Harvard and gained a reputation as an effective force for instituting University policy.
In interviews this spring, University administrators repeatedly praised Spencer for her efforts to expand access to Harvard through efforts like the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative. When President Lawrence H. Summers proposed a massive overhaul to Harvard’s financial aid policy in 2004, Spencer was left with the challenge of making the proposal work from a policy perspective.
“I think I can say clearly that I don’t think that our financial aid initiatives would have occurred in anywhere near the shape or form that they have without her and she was in on the ground floor from the very beginning,” Director of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 told The Crimson earlier this year.
Spencer has said that she plans to continue her efforts to expand access to higher education during her tenure at Bates, but that the college’s small size creates a different set of challenges. Bates enrolls 1,800 students and has a $231 million endowment.
“There’s a very strong progressive tradition at Bates that is kind of a model of inclusivity and the notion that everybody deserves an education,” she told The Crimson in April. “It completely resonates with my basic values about access and affordability.”
—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at email@example.com.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: Oct. 29
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the value of Bates College’s endowment. It is $231 million, not $183 million.