Lawrence Lee Pelletier, Class of 1932, received the bachelor of arts degree in political science from Bowdoin College in 1936 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Subsequently he did graduate work at Harvard University, obtaining a master of arts degree in 1939 and a doctor of philosophy degree in 1947. He was an instructor in history and government at the University of Maine from 1939 to 1945. From 1946 to 1955 he taught government at Bowdoin with the successive ranks of assistant professor, associate professor and professor. During the year 1953-54 he was the associate director of the Citizenship Clearing House at New York University's Law Center. In 1955 Professor Pelletier left Bowdoin to accept the position of President of Allegheny College at Meadville, Pennsylvania. He served as president from 1955 to 1980, leading the college through a period of growth unprecedented in its history. He was active in governmental work in New England at both the state and local levels, and in Pennsylvania he was a delegate to the 1968 State Constitutional Convention, serving as co-chairman of the style and drafting committee. Dr. Pelletier received the honorary doctor of laws degree from Bowdoin College (1962), Colby College (1963), Gannon College (1975) and Nasson College (1980).

Dr. Pelletier married the former Louise Collins. They had two children, Lawrence Lee Jr. and Mary Louise. Dr. Pelletier passed away August 10, 1995, in York, Maine.

Tenure at Allegheny College

Enrollment which was at the one-thousand level when Dr. Pelletier arrived on campus in 1955 underwent a period of carefully controlled expansion until it stood at approximately 1,850 in 1980. Applications for admission remained at relatively high levels, and scores of Allegheny freshmen on Scholastic Aptitude Tests exceeded the national average by approximately 100 points. The curriculum and academic calendar underwent constant scrutiny as the College sought to increase opportunities and options available to Allegheny students. Athletics, both intercollegiate and intramural, rose to an all-time high both in number and level of skill of participants.

Seventy percent of the faculty held doctoral degrees, and in terms of professional education, teaching competence, and research and writing activity, the faculty reached its highest point in the history of the College.

Under Dr. Pelletier's leadership, growth and progress on the academic side proceeded concurrently with improvement in other areas. Through careful management, Allegheny was consistently successful in balancing its annual budget, which climbed past $13 million by 1980. On the average, between 1959 and 1977 the College raised about one million dollars each year for capital purposes. In addition, contributions to Allegheny's annual giving campaign rose to record heights.

The most visible evidence of progress during Dr. Pelletier's administration lies in its physical plant. The 1976 dedication of the Lawrence Lee Pelletier Library, the twelfth building to be constructed during the present administration, meant that a $15.5 million development program approved by the Board of Trustees in 1958 had largely been completed. Among the features of the George M. Henderson Campus Center, completed in 1971, is a 1,750-seat auditorium which with the adjacent Doane Hall Galleries, has been a valuable asset to the community as well as to Allegheny faculty and students. The Richard King Mellon Recreation Building, dedicated in 1969, is an outstanding facility for recreation and physical education. In addition to the teaching facilities in Doane Hall and the Arnold Hall of Music, Murray Hall now provides space for modern languages and Carr Hall accommodates the departments of chemistry, mathematics and physics. Dr. Pelletier's tenure also saw the construction of five residence halls and additions to two existing dormitories plus a much-needed building to house the College's maintenance department.

In the field of education, he was a member from 1966 to 1972 of the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of College and Secondary Schools and he served as a trustee of the Association from 1972 to 1979. In 1970 he was a member of a group of college presidents which traveled to Europe under the auspices of the Regional Council for International Education for the purpose of conferring with foreign educators on matters of common concern.

 

The following essay and portrait appear in the Lawrence Lee Pelletier Library at Allegheny College. The essay was written by Jonathen E. Helmreich, Professor Emeritus of History, Allegheny College.

Allegheny obtained a true New Englander in Lawrence Lee Pelletier, replete with Down-East accent, reserved exterior but internal warmth and love of conversation, and insistence on personal respect as the core of democracy and college governance. His presidential term from July 1955 through June 1980 was second in length only to William Crawford's in the college's first two centuries. It brought great change and increased national recognition.

Born Sept. 8, 1914, in Farmington, NH, Pelletier grew up in Sanford, Maine. Shy as a boy, he early developed rapid reading skills and love of the written word. He graduated a Phi Beta Kappa from Bowdoin College in 1936, receiving M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard in 1939 and 1947. From 1939 to 1945 he taught history and government at the University of Maine.

In 1946 he returned to Bowdoin to teach government. During the 1940s, he served as consultant to the National Resources Planning Board and the Maine Municipal Association and published studies on financing state and local government, the initiative and referendum in Maine, and the town manager plan. In 1950 he was executive secretary to the governor and member of a tax committee that modernized the state's tax structure. From 1953 to 1954, he was associate director of the Citizenship Clearing House of the New York University Law Center.

As president, Pelletier led Allegheny out of financial deficits in the 1950s through the politically troubled sixties and the again financially challenging seventies. Students, faculty and alumni gradually came to appreciate his concern for them and his style of allowing faculty and administrators the latitude to develop their greatest potential. An artful judge of humans, he possessed a sixth sense as to when to encourage or caution. If individuals were treated properly, he believed the institution of which they were a part would prosper as well. Each year he met with entering students in small group matriculation ceremonies, and he and Mrs. Pelletier invited each graduating senior to small dinners at the college's new presidential home at 286 Jefferson Street. He remembered what it was to be a small town boy in a strange environment and constantly endeavored to strengthen the faculty advising program and the student aid budget.

During Dr. Pelletier's tenure, the student body increased from 1000 to over 1850. A three-term calendar was adopted in 1962 and a new curriculum granting more emphasis to the undergraduate major was established two years later. An innovative five-year internship Masters in Education program won national recognition. The faculty expanded from 78 to 130 with over 70% holding doctorates; salaries were increased, and a system of faculty sabbaticals established. An honor system was introduced by the students and Dr. Pelletier initiated a program of Alden Scholars and Honors Day. A chief goal of the president was to raise the educational level and scholarly performance of the campus. Student admissions to graduate colleges mounted steadily. Higher enrollment permitted the offering of a wider range of instruction by added faculty members. It also required expansion of facilities. Dr. Pelletier presided over the construction of several large buildings, culminating with a new library dedicated in 1976 by the trustees in his honor. Student unrest in the 1960s and early 1970s was met with patience and an open door. Dormitory visitation regulations were modified but not abandoned. Protests regarding U.S. actions in Vietnam were heard, but the campus not shut down. Programs for the educationally underprivileged were established. However, efforts to improve access and service to minorities had only limited success.

The president served as trustee for the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. In 1968 he was elected by the Meadville area as delegate to the convention that revised the Commonwealth's constitution; he chaired its committee on style and drafting.

Dr. Pelletier retired to York Harbor, Maine, in 1980. There he served on several boards and helped to raise funds for local needs. He succumbed to cancer on August 10, 1995.

SHS Hall of Fame Profile: Lawrence Lee Pelletier
by Mike Higgins, Sanford News, p.1
May 31, 2001

SANFORD &endash; During his life, Dr. Lawrence Lee Pelletier enjoyed a long and distinguished academic career.

A member of the Sanford High School class of 1932, Pelletier earned a doctorate in philosophy from Harvard University.

During his career, Pelletier was a member of the faculties of both the University of Maine and Bowdoin College.

In 1955, Pelletier was named president of Allegheny College, a post that he held for 25 years before retiring in 1980.

In addition to his doctorate from Harvard, Pelletier also received honorary doctorates from Bowdoin College, Colby College, Gannon College, and Nasson College.

For his achievements during his career as an educator and college president, Dr. Lawrence Lee Pelletier has been named as a member of the Sanford High School Hall of Fame Class of 2001.

Born in Farmington, N.H. in 1914, Pelletier moved to Springvale with his parents in 1920.

During his four years at SHS, Pelletier was involved in a number of activities.

A check of the 1932 Sanford yearbook "The Sentinel" lists Pelletier as the editor-in-chief of the yearbook.

The yearbook also reveals that Pelletier, known to his classmates as "Pelky," served as class president during his junior year, and he was the business manager of the "Red and White," the SHS newspaper.

However, Pelletier also found time during his high school days to have some fun.

He acted in the dramatic class' presentation of the play "Penrod," which was presented in lieu of a senior class play in 1932, according to the yearbook.

Pelletier was also a member of the basketball team for three years, and he also participated in the school's annual gym exhibitions.

The 1932 yearbook describes gym exhibition as an activity designed for both male and female students 'to show how valuable physical training is and the interest each individual shows towards it."

Pelletier, who graduated fourth in his class, was chosen to give the class oration at graduation. The topic of Pelletier's talk: "Washington, the Self-Disciplined Life," was chosen in honor of the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of George Washington, born in 1732.

Evidently, Pelletier's oratory skill was not just limited to the classroom. An entry in the yearbook under "Notes of a Senior" by classmate Clifton Vincent Bemis praises Pelletier's skill in the classroom.

"Lawrence Pelletier is the class debater and orator," wrote Bemis. "He has never been known to lose an argument in class. True, he has been halted in his vociferous march. But defeated? Never!"

After graduating from SHS in 1932, Pelletier went to Bowdoin College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1936.

Pelletier did his postgraduate work at Harvard University, earning a master of arts degree in 1939 and a doctor of philosophy degree in 1947.

Upon receiving his master's degree, Pelletier joined the faculty of the University of Maine, where he taught history and government from 1939 to 1945.

Pelletier then returned to Bowdoin College where he taught government from 1946 to 1955.

While he was on the Bowdoin faculty, Pelletier's work was not just limited to teaching. According to Allegheny College historian Jonathan Helmreich, during the 1940's, Pelletier served as consultant to the National Resources Planning Board and the Maine Municipal Association.

In 1950, Pelletier was a member of a tax committee that modernized Maine's tax structure, says Helmreich.

In 1954-1955, Pelletier was the associate director of the Citizenship Clearing House of the New York University's Law Center.

In 1955, Pelletier left Maine to become the president of Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., serving as president until his retirement in 1980.

According to Helmreich, Pelletier served as president during a turbulent time in the university's history.

"As president, Pelletier led Allegheny out of financial deficits in the 1950's, through the politically troubled sixties, and again the financially challenging seventies," writes Helmreich.

While Pelletier was president, Helmreich says that Allegheny's enrollment increased from 1,000 students to 1,850 students, with the faculty expanding from 78 to 130.

Pelletier also oversaw an expansion of the campus, overseeing the construction of several campus buildings, including the Lawrence Lee Pelletier Library, which was dedicated in his honor in 1976.

According to Helmreich, Pelletier did more than just expand the college, he also took the time to listen to others.

"Students, faculty, and alumni gradually came to appreciate his concern for them and his style of allowing faculty and administrators the latitude to develop their greatest potential," writes Helmreich. "An artful judge of humans, he possessed a sixth sense as to when to encourage or caution. If individuals were treated properly, he believed the institution of which they were part would prosper as well."

In May, 1980, Pelletier announced his retirement from the presidency of Allegheny College after 25 years. "A quarter of a century is enough," said Pelletier at the time. "It is important that the college have a president who will be able to take this institution through the difficult years of the eighties...To me it all adds up, no matter what my personal feelings and emotions. The time has arrived for a new president.

Raymond P. Shafer, chair of the Allegheny College board of trustees in 1980, expressed gratitude for Pelletier's years of service.

"Allegheny was fortunate to have Dr. Pelletier as its president during some of the most difficult years in United States history," said Shafer. "We are grateful for the service he has given and still is giving us."

Upon his retirement, Pelletier returned to Maine, settling in York Harbor. According to Helmreich, Pelletier stayed active raising funds for local needs and serving on several boards before he passed away in 1995.

Lawrence Lee Pelletier might be gone, but as long as Allegheny students continue to study in the library that bears his name, his academic legacy will not be soon forgotten.

 

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