May 17, 2006
To Members of the Bowdoin Community,
It is my sad duty to inform you of the recent death of Martha Reed Coles, former wife of Bowdoin’s ninth president, James Stacy Coles. Mrs. Coles died May 2, 2006, at her home in Harpswell. She was 89.
At Bowdoin from 1952 to 1967, Martha Louise Reed Coles took an active and vital interest in every phase of life at the College, welcoming students, faculty, alumni, members of the local community, and distinguished visitors into the President’s House for gatherings both large and small, formal and informal. During the College’s Commencement weekend in 1968, the Society of Bowdoin Women paid tribute to Mrs. Coles by dedicating a painting by Jeana Dale Bearce in her honor.
As a citizen of Brunswick, she was active in the schools, scouting organizations, Regional Memorial Hospital and the American Association of University Women. Education was one of her most vital concerns, and she assumed a number of educational leadership roles. She served the State of Maine as a member of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Education, the Maine Civil Rights Commission, the White House Conference on Education, and, as Chair, the Maine Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Certification.
Originally from Port Washington, New York, Mrs. Coles was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Barnard College with a Master of Arts degree in zoology from Columbia University. She maintained a life-long interest in education, arts and humanities, and their contribution to the human experience. She started painting at the age of 60 and her paintings have been in numerous shows at the Moulton Union and other area venues. After her retirement to Harpswell in 1979, she audited dozens of arts and humanities courses at Bowdoin.
The Martha Reed Coles Undergraduate Research Fellowship Fund was established at Bowdoin by family members to honor Mrs. Coles, her interest in the arts and humanities, and her many contributions to the Bowdoin College community. The pleasure she received from her interaction with Bowdoin students and her appreciation of their youthful energy, intellect, achievements and promise were primary motivators for her family’s establishing the fund, which supports the activity of students engaged directly in serious study of the arts and/or humanities.
Mrs. Coles is survived by a daughter, Ann Stacy Coles of Brookline, Mass.; two sons, James Reed Coles of Harpswell, and Christopher Coles of Los Angeles, Calif.; two grandchildren, Katherine Coles Piper of New York City and Emavieve Rose Coles of Los Angeles; a sister, Patricia Evans of Cleveland, Ohio; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Memorial contributions may be made to either the Curtis Memorial Library, 23 Pleasant Street, Brunswick, ME 04011, or the Martha Reed Coles Undergraduate Fellowship Fund, Bowdoin College, 4100 College Station, Brunswick, ME 04011.
I know each of you joins me in extending condolences to the Coles family along with deep appreciation for Mrs. Coles’ long support and many contributions to the College.