Location: Bowdoin / Library / Special Collections & Archives / Manuscript Collections / Kenneth C.M. Sills Collection, 1816-2014, n.d. (bulk 1874-1978)

Kenneth C.M. Sills Collection, 1816-2014, n.d. (bulk 1874-1978)

24 linear feet;
2 oversize boxes

Catalog Number: M166

Series List:


Agency History / Biographical Note:
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on December 5, 1879, Kenneth Charles Morton Sills moved a year later to Portland, Maine, with his parents, Charles Morton and Elizabeth Sills. Educated at Portland High School and Bowdoin College, from which he graduated summa cum laude in 1901 as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Delta Kappa Epsilon, Sills earned his masters from Harvard in 1903 and the same year was appointed instructor in English and classics at Bowdoin. Sills accepted a position as a tutor in English at Columbia for the 1904-1905 school year and in 1906 returned to Bowdoin to assume an assistant professorship in Latin. From 1907 to 1946 he was Winkley Professor of Latin Language and Literature and was successively dean from 1910 to 1918, acting president in 1917-1918, and president from then until his retirement in 1952.

On November 21, 1918, Sills married Edith Lansing Koon, a 1911 graduate of Wellesley College and former high school teacher; she received an honorary degree from Bowdoin in 1952 for her work at the College.

Sills himself received ten honorary degrees, numerous awards, including the Denmark Medal of Liberation in 1946 and the Bowdoin Prize in 1948, and he was a trustee of six colleges and schools, including Wellesley, Athens College in Greece, and the Episcopal Theological School. He was a delegate to many congresses of the Protestant Episcopal Church, a member of the Board of Visitors of the United States Naval Academy, and was chairman of the board of the Carnegie Foundation from 1939 to 1941. As an author he published a book of poems entitled The First American and Other Poems, and he also wrote the lyrics to the song "Rise, Sons of Bowdoin." Sills died in Portland on November 15, 1954.

Scope and Content:
Consists of more than 20,000 manuscript items relating to Bowdoin's eighth president and his wife, including correspondence, addresses, citations, and other materials relating to Sills's presidency of the College. Also included are greeting cards and invitations received by Kenneth and Edith Sills, as well as class notes, photographs, awards and degrees, scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings. Of particular note is the Sills tablecloth, signed by various luminaries visiting the College and later embroidered, and numerous pieces of correspondence from every United States president from Wilson to Truman. For related materials, see the Kenneth C.M. Sills Administrative Records.


Cite as: Kenneth C. M. Sills Collection, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library.
Access Restrictions: None.

George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives · Staff · Hours
Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421 · scaref@bowdoin.edu · (207) 725-3288