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James Stacy Coles papers

Identifier: M038

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Scope and Content

Personal, business, and Brown University and Bowdoin College correspondence of James Stacy Coles, as well as speeches given by Coles, chiefly while president of Bowdoin College. Lecture notes, mainly for Bowdoin classes, research materials, and writings, both manuscript and published, are included. The bulk of the Writings series concerns Physical Principles of Chemistry. There are meeting minutes, reports, and other materials pertaining to Coles' affiliation with the Research Corporation and professional organizations. Biographical information for Coles and his family, and photographs of Coles and his family are included.


  • Creation: 1903-1996, undated


Biographical/Historical Note

James Stacy Coles was president of Bowdoin College from 1952 to 1967. He was born in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, on June 3, 1913, to Edwin Stacy Coles, publisher of the local newspaper, and Emavieve Rose Coles. Coles earned degrees from Mansfield State Teachers College (1934) and Columbia University (1936; with advanced degrees in 1939 and 1941). After earning his Ph.D. from Columbia, Coles became Instructor of Chemistry at College of the City of New York (1936-1941); Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Middlebury College (1941-1943); and Research Supervisor at Underwater Explosives Laboratory, Oceanographic Institute, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts (1943-1946). In 1946 he took a position as Assistant, then Associate Professor of Chemistry, and Acting Dean at Brown University. He held this post until 1952, when he became the president of Bowdoin College.

Under Coles's leadership, the College's science department modernized, programs for gifted students and low-income students were implemented, and an independent studies program began. Coles's presidency also witnessed a major building program, which included construction of Coles Tower, Wentworth Hall and Chamberlain Hall (1964).

Coles was chairman of the Maine Higher Education Advisory Committee (1965-1967), which helped establish the University of Maine System. He also co-authored Physical Principles of Chemistry (1964) with R.H. Cole. In 1967, Coles resigned the presidency of Bowdoin to become president of The Research Corporation in New York City. He retired from The Research Corporation in 1982, but remained as chairman of its executive committee until 1984.

Coles was married in 1938 to Martha Reed and they had three children; Ann Stacy Coles, James Reed Coles, and Christopher Coles. After that marriage ended in 1980, Coles was married in 1981 to Cecily Cannan Selby. James Stacy Coles died in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on June 13, 1996.


11 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Personal, business, and Brown University and Bowdoin College correspondence of James Stacy Coles; speeches, lecture note, and writings.

Guide to the James Stacy Coles Papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine 04011 Repository

3000 College Station
Brunswick Maine 04011 USA
(207) 725-3288