Phineas Sprague ’50 (1925-2019)

To the Bowdoin community,

I am sorry to inform you that Overseer Emeritus Phineas Sprague, of the Class of 1950, passed away at his home in Cape Elizabeth on Thursday, February 7, at the age of ninety-three. He leaves an enduring legacy of family and service to the College and to the communities in which he lived. 

Phineas was born on June 15, 1925, in Boston, MA. A graduate of the Groton School, he served in Europe during World War II in the US Army Combat Engineers. After the war, he completed two semesters of study at George Washington University before entering Bowdoin.

Phin was an English major, a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, a member of the ski team, a founding member of the Outing Club in 1948 and president of the club in his senior year, and a member of the group that formed the Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Club and cut the first ski trails on the mountain. He married Mary Louise Thomas in August of 1948. After graduation, he worked for C. H. Sprague and Son Co. at the Sprague Steamship Co. in Boston from 1950 to 1957 and then at the Petroleum Heat & Power Co. in Providence, Rhode Island, from 1957 to 1969, where he was treasurer, vice president, and then president. 

Phineas was active in community affairs in Providence, and he continued a commitment to public service throughout his life. He was the Rhode Island Chair for the March of Dimes, a trustee of the Mary C. Wheeler School, a member of the board of managers of the Smith Hill Girls’ Club, a director and vice president of the Providence Boys’ Club, and a director of Junior Achievement of Rhode Island. Professionally, he was president of the Oil Dealers Association of Rhode Island, a director of the New England Fuel Institute, and a board member of the Home Heating Council, Inc.

The Spragues moved to Maine in 1970, where Phin was an officer in several start-up companies, including Plasmine Corporation (where he was vice president and treasurer); Motion Analysis, Inc., of Amherst, MA; and Portland Engineering Co. where he served as the firm’s president and treasurer. He was a corporator of the Maine Medical Center, a board member of Camp Ketcha, a representative on the Scarborough Sanitary District, an active member of the Maine Republican party and a candidate for the state legislature, and an advocate for environmental conservation and preservation as a founding member of the Scarborough Land Trust. He was a member of the Society of Colonial Wars and the Society of the Cincinnati. In keeping with Phin’s stated wishes, his body will be donated to the medical program at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Bowdoin has been the beneficiary of Phin’s encouragement and support while he was an undergraduate and in the years since his graduation. He served as president and treasurer of the Bowdoin Club of Rhode Island, as a regional chair of Bowdoin’s 1962 and 1972 capital campaigns, and as a volunteer for the Bowdoin Alumni Schools and Interviewing Committee (BASIC). For many years, he was the president of the Delta Kappa Epsilon House Corporation. He and his wife, Mary Louise, established the Widgery Thomas Fund at the College in 1972. He was elected to the Board of Overseers in 1985 and served on the Student Affairs and Development Committees. In 1991, he was elected overseer emeritus. In addition to Phin’s role in establishing the Outing Club (which is still going strong after seventy years), he was, in 1986, instrumental in reestablishing rowing—the College’s first intercollegiate sport—after a hiatus of nearly ninety years. 

Phin is survived by Mary Louise Thomas Sprague, his wife of seventy years; his children, Phineas Sprague Jr. of Cape Elizabeth, Mimi Hauenstein of Aspen, CO, Seth Sprague ’75 of Portland, Abbott Sprague ’77 of Houston, TX, Cate Gilbane of Cape Elizabeth, and Happy Rowe of Chestnut Hill, MA, and their spouses; fourteen grandchildren, including Coco Sprague ’11 of Memphis, TN, and Andrew Sprague ’12 of Houston, TX; six great-grandchildren; a sister, Millicent Monks; half-sisters Julie H. Sprague and Jeanette Hagen; a half-brother, Shaw Sprague; and nieces and nephews.

The family has suggested that memorial gifts may be made to the Bowdoin College Rowing Endowment, 4100 College Station, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME 04011-8432. A celebration of Phin’s life will be held in the summer.

We share with Phin’s family a sense of loss at his passing, along with profound appreciation for a life well lived and one deeply devoted to his community and to the College.