Campus News

Renowned Sociologist Matilda White Riley Returns to Bowdoin

Story posted July 06, 2000

Bowdoin College welcomes Matilda White Riley as Research Professor in Sociology (honorary), where she will have her home base in the building that bears her name. She has been active part-time as Professor Emerita since her years (1975-1981) as Daniel B. Fayerweather Professor of Political Economy and Sociology, when she established and directed Bowdoin's joint Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Now returning to Bowdoin from two decades at the National Institute on Aging (at the National Institutes of Health), she will continue under Bowdoin auspices her long career of scientific work on age and aging. As a child, she had lived in Brunswick with her grandmother in the house built on Longfellow Lane where the renowned poet used to walk when a Bowdoin student.

For Bowdoin and for Brunswick this is a return of the natives. Both Matilda and Jack, her husband of 69 years, graduated from Brunswick High School(1927,1928); they were married in Brunswick's First Parish Church (1931); and both received honorary degrees from Bowdoin (1972). Now they are planning a book together on the widely diverse lives of two sociologists.

As for Jack, this move is quite literally the return of the native. Born in Brunswick in 1908, his varied lifetime reflects his local origin in curious ways: his boyhood success at catching six-inch trout (legal) in Mere Brook somehow led to a Maine guide license; a high school champion on the Brunswick golf course, he later became a member of the Bowdoin golf team; when he graduated from Bowdoin in 1930, his father celebrated his 25th reunion and his grandfather his 50th; his PhD thesis at Harvard was a systematic study of social life in early Brunswick; following an academic and wartime career of some 30 years, he became a senior officer in a large life insurance company, symbolically transcending the family insurance tradition by developing an unprecedented national program of corporate social responsibility.

In early July the couple will move into their home at Mere Point (always their legal residence), living beside Tim and Ann Riley, and expecting frequent visits from their two children, John and Lucy, their eight grandchildren (Erica is a senior at Bowdoin), and their eight (as of now) great grandchildren. Their home address is 22 Monument Lane, Brunswick.

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