Colby College President William Adams will be nominated for the position of chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities by President Obama.

Adams, 66, who goes by the nickname Bro, is retiring from his post as president of Colby College in Waterville at the end of the school year. He’s been president of the college for 14 years.

“Bro brings demonstrated leadership and decades of experience as an administrator at major universities and liberal arts institutions,” Obama said in a news release. “His clear dedication and lifelong commitment to the humanities make him uniquely qualified to lead the nation’s cultural agency. I’m proud to nominate Bro as chairman of the National Endowment for Humanities and look forward to working with him in the months and years to come.”

Adams was not available for comment Thursday, according to Colby spokeswoman Ruth Jacobs-Jackson. She said the decision still needs Senate confirmation, and it’s not customary for the nominee to comment before a final decision.

“President Adams has demonstrated a great commitment to humanities, recently opening a center for arts and humanities here on campus,” Jacobs-Jackson said. “It seems like the type of role that is aligned with his passions.”

During his tenure, Adams led an ambitious, $376 million capital campaign, which funded construction of new buildings, expansion of the college on the Colby Green, and other projects. He also oversaw growth in programs such as environmental studies and the visual arts on campus.


Adams has previously said that after retiring as Colby president he wanted to complete a book about French philosophy and art and return to Paris, where he once spent time as a Fulbright scholar. He and his wife, Lauren Sterling, have homes in Belgrade Lakes and Portland.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency created in 1965 and is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the U.S. The agency serves to promote excellence in the humanities and convey the lessons of history to all Americans, according to its website,

Since 1965, the endowment has participated in public projects including the Library of America editions of novels, essays and poems celebrating America’s literary heritage and the United States Newspaper Project, which cataloged and microfilmed more than 63 million pages of historic newspapers.

The current chairman is Jim Leach, formerly a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

David A. Greene, executive vice president at University of Chicago, take over as Colby’s president on July 1.

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