For many in the current Bowdoin community, the name Greason may only evoke the image of the glossy tile of the College's swimming pool.
Yet the man behind the name—A. Leroy Greason, former Bowdoin professor, dean and president—died in Brunswick on August 28, leaving a legacy that continues to influence the lives of many individuals and the College itself.
Next Tuesday, September 13, Greason would have celebrated his 89th birthday. Born in Newport, R.I., he grew up in Wellesley, MA, and graduated from Wesleyan University in 1945. Greason seved as as student government president and was a member of Phi Betta Kappa.
In 1952, Greason began teaching at Bowdoin as an English professor specializing in 18th century literature. He took the position while still finishing his doctorate at Harvard, which he received in 1954.
In an online memorial to Greason, John E. Simonds '57 praised his "sense of humor, his classroom skills in making 18th century England come to life for us, his understanding of the priorities of 20-year-olds, his respect as a former college swimmer for athletics and his patient smile which made him seem more approachable than others of his colleagues...Polite and good-mannered yes, but also tough and direct."
John Cross '76, Secretary of Development and Community, is a third-generation employee of the College, and grew up as close family friends with the Greasons. He recalls hearing how his grandfather lobbied for Greason's initial hiring, sensing his notable charisma and intelligence.
Frank Thomas '61 also eulogized Greason's teaching, calling his classes the "most intellectually invigorating" he ever experienced. "He seemed to know instinctively what you were all about as a person and could reach you deeply with his spacious, tranquil mind that listened as much as it elevated one's general critical skills," said Thomas.
In 1962, Greason became the college's inaugural Dean of Students, moving to become the dean of the College four years later, though resigning in 1975 to resume teaching full-time.
Yet while Greason's passion lay with his students, when asked by the Trustees to serve as the 12th president to the College, he accepted and launched an immensely productive executive career from 1981-1990.
Greason's years at Bowdoin were marked by the wider sociopolitical tensions of the age, from anti-war protests and the switch to coeducation to the College's reevaluations of fraternities and the role of distribution requirements.
President Barry Mills said it was Greason's spirit of "measured, thoughtful judgement linked to a very genuine sense of civility" that guided the school so successfully during those years and still inspires the administration today.
Under Greason's presidential guidance, the size of the faculty was increased from 100 to 125, the number of tenure-track female professors became equal to the number of men, the alumni fund was doubled, and the scholarship endowment fund was boosted by $15 million dollars. The endowment's compound annual growth rate was roughly 11.5 percent for the ten years he was in office.
Furthermore, according to Cross, while the College's grading system had been high honors, honors, pass and fail for the previous 10-12 years, towards the end of Greason's term he generated a return to the letter grades used today.
And while there had been no distribution requirements other than fulfilling total credits and major requirements, Greason instated distribution requirements. in an effort to challenge students and bolster exploration in wider areas.
He also oversaw the development of the Asian, Arctic, and Environmental Studies programs to expand the interdisciplinary curriculums of the College.
Greason's memorial service occurred last Friday morning at Brunswick's First Parish Church. Mills, who was a student when Greason was dean, delivered a eulogy, as did Greason's eldest son Randall.
Mills described the ceremony as full of both Brunswick and Bowdoin community members, noting that "there was a good deal of fun music during the service that was played that reflected back on him... He was a big fan of Gillbert and Sullivan."
The memories noted on Greason's online memorial span from those appreciating his work in the Brunswick community—volunteering at Meals on Wheels, teaching Sunday school classes, and serving as a trustee for numerous charities and organizations—to the smallest gestures of kindness and joy remembered decades later.
"My roommate, Holly, found his glove in one of those many Brunswick snowdrifts—it had a label with his name, and so she was able to return it to him. He left such a warm, grateful message on our answering machine...he was a humble, thoughtful person," wrote Elizabeth Millan '90.
"I remember an Appleton-Hyde water balloon fight in the fall of 1962. Dean Greason appeared and from some window the cry 'get the Green Dean' rang out. Roy greet[ed] the shower with a wave and a laugh," wrote Andy White.
Greason is survived by four grandchildren and his three children, Randall, Katherine, and Douglas, while his wife Pauline "Polly" Schaaf Greason, predeceased him in 2007.
His online memorial can be accessed at the following site: