Martha Reed Coles, the former wife of James Stacy Coles H’68, Bowdoin’s ninth president, died at her home on May 2, 2006, in Harpswell, Maine.
Born in Michigan City, IN, on March 5, 1917, she graduated from Barnard College as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, earned a master’s degree in zoology from Columbia University, and worked on genetics research at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City from 1938 to 1941. She married James Stacy Coles in 1938. From 1941 to 1943 she lived in Middlebury,VT, while her husband taught at Middlebury College; from 1943 to 1946 she lived in Woods Hole, MA, while her husband conducted research on underwater explosives as part of the war effort. During this period she gave birth to their three children. From 1946 to 1952, she lived in Bristol, RI, making a home for her family while her husband taught at Brown University and served as acting Dean of the College. In 1952 the family moved to Brunswick after James Stacy Coles was selected as President of Bowdoin College. In her role as “first lady” of the College, Mrs. Coles played an active role in many aspects of campus life, including welcoming into the president’s house students, alumni, members of the governing boards, community members, and distinguished visitors. She also wrote citations for honorary degrees awarded by the College. She was active in the Regional Memorial Hospital Auxiliary and the American Association of University Women. She served as a member of Maine Governor’s Advisory Commission on Education, the Maine Civil Rights Commission, the White House Conference on Education, and as chair of the Maine Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Certification. She moved to NewYork City in 1967 when her husband became president of Research Corporation. She volunteered as a literacy teacher and teacher of English as a secondary language at an elementary school in East Harlem. After she and her husband divorced in 1978, she took up oil painting and moved to Harpswell. She audited many classes in the arts and humanities at the College and her appreciation of students led her to establish the Martha Reed Coles Undergraduate Fellowship Fund at Bowdoin in 2002. She is survived by a daughter,Ann Stacy Coles of Brookline, MA; two sons, James Reed Coles of Harpswell and Christopher of Los Angeles, CA; two grandchildren, Katherine Coles Piper of NewYork City and Emavieve Rose Coles of Los Angeles; and a sister, Patricia Evans of Cleveland, Ohio.