Professor Margaret L. Bates Remembered for Her Love of Students and International Community

September 22, 2009 – New College of Florida lost a key figure in the College’s history on September 17, as Professor Emerita of Political Science Margaret L. “Peggy” Bates passed away following a brief battle with complications related to an infection of her heart.  Bates was 85 years old.

A fixture on the New College campus for more than three decades, Bates transcended her small town roots in Michigan and Illinois to become an active scholar on African politics and history, as well as international law and relations.  While at New College, she served as a professor of political science from 1971-1995 and as the College’s interim provost from 1989-1992.  Following her retirement from full-time teaching in 1995, she was named a professor emerita of political science in 1996.

During her career, Bates authored numerous scholarly books, articles and papers on the historical and economic development of Africa.  She also served as editor for the African Studies Bulletin; a member of the board of editors for The Journal of Politics, African Affairs and African Studies Review; as president of the Sarasota-Manatee Chapter of the United Nations Association; and as a member of the American Society of International Law, the American Political Science Association, African Studies Association and numerous other professional organizations.

But despite her lengthy resume, enviable list of countries traveled to and prestigious academic credentials, Bates will be remembered most at New College for her passionate commitment to the College’s students and to teaching.

“Peggy had an uncommonly strong impact on a large number of students, which becomes clearly evident at any gathering of alumni across the country,” said New College President Mike Michalson in recalling Bates’ impact on the College. “In addition, her interest in international relations helped this little College remain connected to the wider world.  In some ways, our impressive production of Fulbright Scholars and our commitment to building an international studies center are the legacy of Peggy’s influence through the years.”

Bates arrived at New College as a professor of political science in 1971 after serving for eight years as an associate professor of government at Smith College. Immediately, her impact was felt both inside the classroom as well as in the residence halls on campus.

A victim of childhood polio, Bates walked with difficulty and was forced to use a cane throughout her life. She also was unable to drive a car. At New College, her disability led her to live on campus among the students and over the years her “apartment” in the Pei dorms became a popular hangout for students interested in global politics, world history and international relations.

Among those who attended those spirited discussions over tea and cookies was a young New College student and future United States congressman from the Miami area, Lincoln Diaz-Balart.  Congressman Diaz-Balart plans to return to New College on November 7 to speak during the College’s celebration of life honoring Bates.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois (1945), Margaret Bates went on to earn master’s degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 1944, the University of Bristol (England) in 1951 and Makerere College (Uganda) in 1952.  In 1958, she received a doctorate of philosophy (D. Phil.) from Oxford University, where she also was named a prestigious Ford Fellow.  She held an honorary doctor of laws degree (L.L.D.) from Ohio Wesleyan University (1974) as well.

In addition to her work at New College, Bates volunteered and served with numerous community organizations in the Sarasota-Manatee and greater Tampa Bay areas.  Those organizations included the Women’s Resource Center, Florida Humanities Council, Sarasota Institute for Lifetime Learning, Women’s Legal Fund and the Sarasota Phi Beta Kappa Association.

To recognize the valuable contributions made by Professor Bates to New College over the years, the College announced that it will hold a celebration of life service in her honor on Saturday, November 7, at 2 p.m. on the campus green located in front of the Hamilton Center.  The public is invited to attend.

Professor Bates’ family has requested that friends, neighbors, colleagues, students and others who knew Peggy submit memories, stories, and anecdotes about her to  The College and Bates’ family plan to incorporate these shared memories into the memorial service on November 7.

For more information, please contact the New College Office of Public Affairs at (941) 487-4150 or email:

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