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May 7, 2024

Six months after shootings delayed ceremony, Bates College installs its new president

Bates College President Garry W. Jenkins at podium Photo / Phyllis Graber Jensen, Bates College Bates College President Garry W. Jenkins on May 4 delivers his inaugural address "Rising Together."

Bates College on Saturday officially installed its new president, former University of Minnesota Law School dean and legal scholar Garry Jenkins.

Jenkins was appointed the college’s ninth president on Feb. 27, 2023, and began his tenure on July 1 last year. But his installation ceremony was postponed by six months, from October until Saturday, May 4, due to the Oct. 25 shootings that killed 18 people in Lewiston.

As he welcomed the audience, Greg Ehret, chair of the Bates College Board of Trustees and host of the ceremony, asked for a moment of silence “in honor of the friends and neighbors we lost.” 

“There was tragedy in the events of late October,” Jenkins then said. “But there was also grace and beauty in the response. I know that this community will hold both of these truths as we continue to move forward into the future.”

Before the roughly 1,000 guests in Merrill Gymnasium, Jenkins promised to lead Bates “with humility and transparency, with tenacity and enthusiasm, and, of course, with ardor and devotion.”

Jenkins is the first Black leader of the Lewiston liberal arts college, and succeeded Clayton Spencer, who began as president in 2012 and stepped down last June.

“I am moved beyond words by the warm welcome that you have offered me — here on this stage, on this day, but even from the very first moments that my joining this community became even a remote possibility,” said Jenkins. “This place — our college — is a place of warmth and welcome, and you have made that abundantly and beautifully clear.” 

The future of Bates College

In Jenkins’ address, titled “Rising Together,” the new president said the ceremony “represents exciting beginnings and celebrates some historic firsts.”

“I remember a time, not too long ago, asking, would our nation’s most selective colleges ever be open to a Black president?” Jenkins said. “To an openly gay president? Would that be possible? Was that a dream too big?”

“I am glad that today, with places like Bates in the world and with people like those who make up this community, no dream is too big,” he continued.

Jenkins then mapped out areas where Bates can better cultivate tomorrow’s leaders: innovation, opportunity, leadership, well-being and civic engagement.

“The task before us is to continue to evolve and raise our sights,” said Jenkins. “To bolster the relationships that are at the core of our success as an institution, and to do even more to cultivate and prepare humane leaders of the next generation. To protect and enrich the gift that is Bates for the future.

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