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New President at Bates College Celebrates Davidson Roots at Her Inauguration

by Davidson College
Spencer family
(seated) Sam '40 and Ava Spencer with daughter Clayton Spencer and her children, Will and Ava Carter. Will is an NYU graduate, and Ava is a senior at Harvard working in genomics. Photo by Rene Minnis

Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, formally installed a hometown Davidsonian as its eighth president on October 26. In her new appointment, Ava Clayton Spencer continues a family tradition of leadership in education, since she is the daughter of Davidson's own President Emeritus Samuel R. Spencer '40 and his spouse Ava.

Sam and Ava and other family and friends were in attendance. In her inaugural address, Clayton gave a brief, teary shout-out to her parents, holding up the her cap and explaining that father Sam had worn it both as president of Mary Baldwin and of Davidson colleges.

Sam Spencer was president of Mary Baldwin College from 1957 to 1968, and president of Davidson from 1968- to1984. Clayton lived in Davidson with her family from 1968 until 1972, and attended Alexander Junior High and North Mecklenburg High. She finished high school at Exeter Academy and enrolled as an undergraduate at Williams College.

In 1977 she earned her bachelor's degree from Williams , magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in history and German. She then earned a B.A. in theology from Oxford University in 1979, a M.A. in religion from Harvard University in 1982 and a law degree from Yale Law School in 1985. She was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and winner of the Moot Court competition.

Clayton Spencer during her inaugural address
At inauguration, Clayton Spencer wore the cap that served her father at Mary Baldwin and Davidson.

After law school, she clerked for Judge Rya W. Zobel of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts from 1985 to 1986 and then practiced law at the Boston firm of Ropes & Gray from 1986 to 1989. Clayton Spencer served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Boston from 1989 to 1993 until becoming chief education counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources from 1993 to 1997 under the late U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy's chairmanship.

After leaving government, Spencer served as associate vice president for higher education policy at Harvard and then executive dean of the newly founded Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and as a lecturer at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. In September 2005, she was appointed vice president for policy at Harvard University, serving until her appointment as president of Bates. She officially began work there in July.

For further coverage of the inauguration and the new president, visit the Bates web site.