BAR HARBOR, Maine — College of the Atlantic’s third president, Louis Rabineau, died on Monday, Nov. 21, of complications from a stroke. Rabineau, who served as COA’s president from 1984 to 1993, was 87 years old.
“Lou was a tremendous person and a remarkable leader,” said Darron Collins, the college’s current president and a student at COA while Rabineau was there. “The COA diploma that hangs on my wall bears his name, so his passing hurts me personally, but I know the entire COA community is feeling the loss.”
Collins pointed out that Rabineau had taken over at COA after a fire in 1983 had demolished what had been the college’s main building.
“COA’s second president had left and enrollment had plummeted. By gathering the right people and providing the right thought and action, Lou led our resurrection back from the ashes,” Collins said.
The intellectual curiosity of Rabineau along with his astute ability to engage experts in a wide variety of fields, his humor and his openness are credited with bringing a wide range of individuals to the small college as board members, as faculty members or as friends, according to a release issued by COA on Thursday.
“Lou never let up on his emphasis on excellence,” said founding faculty member Steve Katona, who followed Rabineau as COA’s fourth president. That, in turn, led to a doubling of enrollment along with a major increase in funds.
Before arriving at COA, Rabineau had been chancellor of the Connecticut Commission for Higher Education and served on the New England Board of Higher Education and the editorial board of the Harvard Educational Review. Though he had only been hired for a year at first, as a consultant through his position as a senior vice president at the Academy for Educational Development, he remained for nearly ten years. “COA was too exciting a place to leave,” Rabineau once said.
According to the COA release, Rabineau received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from State University in Albany and served as a code breaker in the U.S. Army during World War II, undergoing special wartime training in languages at Yale University. His unit liberated a concentration camp and also fought the weeklong crucial battle to capture the Remagen railway bridge across the Rhine, allowing Allied forces to cross into Germany in March of 1945. After the war, he received his doctorate in education from Harvard University. In 1975, Rabineau received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Yeshiva University and, in 1993, an honorary bachelor’s degree in human ecology from COA.
Rabineau was buried in Albany, N.Y., on Wednesday, Nov. 23.
The College of the Atlantic is currently on winter break, but will hold a celebration of his life sometime after students and faculty return in 2012.
College of the Atlantic is a small, private institution in Bar Harbor with an undergraduate enrollment of about 340. It uses a trimester-based academic calendar and offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in human ecology.