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Bates College Oral History Collection

Identifier: BCOH

Collection Overview

The Bates College Oral History Project seeks to document and celebrate the rich and varied history of Bates College by compiling a collection of recorded spoken memories from a variety of individuals closely connected to Bates College, including alumni/alumnae, faculty, staff, presidents, and students.

The personal stories and insights of interviewees of the Bates College Oral History Project offer a rich fabric of firsthand history spanning nine decades and provide a sense of the time and of the interactions between people who helped to shape the social, economic, educational and administrative history of the College. In addition, they augment and complement the extensive documentary material in the Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library.

The project includes interviews conducted by students and some staff and faculty members between 1977 and 1999, and interviews conducted by Oral Historian Andrea L'Hommedieu from 2005 through 2006, which coincided with the College's Sesquicentennial. Several other interviews were conducted by her in 2011.

Full transcripts of and select audio clips for some of the interviews can be viewed in alphabetical, chronological, or association (faculty, staff, etc.) order on the website at The interviews found at that link comprise most of the ones dated 2005 or 2006 only.


  • 1977 - 2012


Access Restrictions

Access to some interviews may be restricted. Contact staff for further information.

Copyright Notice

Requests for permission to reproduce and publish materials from this collection should be addressed in writing to the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library.

Historical Note

Bates College is a coeducational, nonsectarian, residential college with special commitments to academic rigor and to assuring in all of its efforts the dignity of each individual and access to its programs and opportunities by qualified learners. Bates prizes both the inherent values of a demanding education and the profound usefulness of learning, teaching, and understanding.

Bates was founded in 1855, over 150 years ago, by people who believed strongly in freedom, civil rights, and the importance of a higher education for all who could benefit from it. Bates is devoted to undergraduate in the arts and science, and commitment to teaching excellence is central to the College’s mission. The College is recognized for its inclusive social character; there are no fraternities or sororities, and student organizations are open to all.

When founded in 1855, Bates was the first coeducational college in New England, admitting students without regard to race, religion, national origin, or sex. In the mid-19th Century, Oren B. Cheney, a Dartmouth graduate and minister of the Freewill Baptist denomination, conceived the idea of founding the Maine State Seminary in Lewiston. Within a few years the seminary became a college, and it was Cheney who obtained financial support from Benjamin E. Bates, the Boston manufacturer for whom the College was named.

Oren B. Cheney is now honored as the founder and first president of the College. He was followed in 1894 by George Colby Chase, who led the young institution through a period of growth in building, endowment, and academic recognition – a growth that continued from 1920 to 1944 under President Clifton Daggett Gray, and through 1966 under President Charles Franklin Phillips. Thomas Hedley Reynolds, the College’s fifth president, brought Bates national attention by developing a superior faculty and innovative academic programs. Donald West Harward retired in June 2002 after 13 years as president. On July 1, 2002, Elaine Tuttle Hansen, formerly provost at Haverford College, assumed office as the seventh president of Bates College.

Bates has limited its admissions and grown slowly, yet it also has pursued an ambitious program of building and equipment acquisition to support teaching. Dedicated in 1999, the 90,000-square-foot Pettengill Hall provides innovative teaching spaces, faculty office, laboratories, and other facilities for eleven social science departments and interdisciplinary programs.

In 2005, Bates College celebrated its Sesquicentennial, 150-years of history, excellence, and quality.


145 interviews

Language of Materials



The Bates College Oral History Project seeks to document and celebrate the rich and varied history of Bates College by compiling a collection of recorded spoken memories from a variety of individuals closely connected to Bates College, including alumni/alumnae, faculty, staff, presidents and students.

Acquisitions Information

Recorded interviews and transcripts were given to Bates College and deposited in Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections following summer projects in 1997, 1998, and 1999 directed by the Dean of the College.

Project website available

Audioclips and transcripts for many of the interviews are available online at

Processing Information

For the oral histories done between 1997 and 1999, biographical summaries and collection descriptions were written by Bates students. Final arrangement and description by Kurt Kuss, Special Collections Librarian.

Oral histories conducted between 2005 and 2006 were directed by Oral Historian Andrea L'Hommedieu. Katherine Stefko, then Director of Archives and Special Collections, served as Project advisor. The Website Designer was Erin Faulder, Class of 2008. The other student assistants on the project were: Charlie Hely, Class of 2007; Chris Nelson, Class of 2008; and Mutiara Stillman, Class of 2007.

Finding Aid for The Bates College Oral History Collection
Processed by: Archives Staff; machine-readable finding aid created by: Michelle Belden
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library Repository

70 Campus Avenue
Lewiston Maine 04240 United States of America