Locals have long wondered what Bates College officials really thought of their host community.
Officially, that relationships has always been cordial, and Bates has usually invited the community to college programs. Thousands of Bates students, meanwhile, have participated in the college’s excellent community service program.
But, secretly, did they lament being located in the midst of what has long been considered one of Maine’s toughest and grittiest mill towns? Did they curse the gods that they weren’t founded in a cute little college town that more closely matched their ivy league image?
Or was all that wondering about what they thought just our low self-esteem showing?
Well, wonder no longer. Bates College’s new president, Clayton Spencer, left little doubt in an interview with the Sun Journal on Monday when she told of making a quick trip to town before being selected for the job.
“I wanted to make sure this was a place I could visualize living and being before I took the search to the next step,” she said.
“I just thought it was fantastic. I thought Lewiston and Auburn together were amazing.”
(OMG. She LIKES us!)
She talked of walking the campus and eating lunch on the deck of Gritty McDuff’s overlooking the Androscoggin River.
(That’s SO cool … for a college prez and all.)
The improving viewscape there is important, not just to the future of Lewiston/Auburn, but for Bates College as well.
It has to be easier to convince parents to part with nearly $60,000 a year it officially costs to attend the college when the host community has some attractive amenities.
Bates administrators and trustees have to be happier to have a cleaner river, a waterfront hotel and a burgeoning downtown restaurant scene to present to students and parents.
Just try getting into one of those restaurants any weekend parents or alumni are in town.
Our downtowns certainly have more to offer — and more to reassure the parents of college-bound students — than they have for decades.
We are happy President Spencer likes her new hometown, but we are even happier she made a point of saying so. We hope she will become an ally in helping dispel the old images of Lewiston-Auburn that linger in the minds of those who haven’t been here in a while or simply refuse to acknowledge that times — and towns — change.
Sun Journal, Lewiston (Sept. 5)