Higher Education in Maine and Smith College were each beneficiaries of record-setting, transformative private gifts this week. The two massive gifts, totaling more than half a billion dollars, will support multiple educational initiatives by their recipients for years to come.
The Maine Gift
The Harold Alfond Foundation announced Tuesday that it was donating more than $500 million for new investments to help grow Maines’s workforce and economy and support quality health care. The grant awards will be paid out over time as recipients meet certain benchmarks.
Eight recipients will receive between $5 million and $240 million each, to support their work in education, skill-building, research and job creation. According to the foundation, “supporting the goals of Maine’s 10-year Economic Development Strategy, the selected institutions will help enhance the skills of the state workforce, promote innovation and entrepreneurial solutions, and strengthen the state’s infrastructure.
The University of Maine System (UMS) will be funded to support transformative change at Maine’s public universities by launching a cutting edge, multi-university ‘College of Engineering, Computing, and Information Science;’ creating new programs to support student retention and success; developing the Maine Graduate and Professional Center; and enhancing athletic facilities at UMaine.
The Roux Institute at Northeastern University will receive support for scholarships, graduate education programming, and research capabilities to support Maine residents in the fields of artificial intelligence, computer and data science, digital engineering, and the advanced life sciences and medicine.
The University of New England (UNE) will establish the Institute for Interprofessional Education and Practice and construct a new facility for the relocation of the UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine from Biddeford to Portland. UNE is Maine’s largest health care educator and home to Maine’s only medical school and Northern New England’s only dental college. The grant will also be used to support high-growth undergraduate programs on the University’s Biddeford campus.
Thomas College will use its funds to launch new academic programs in leading-edge fields, enhance student retention programs, improve affordability, and grow academic and employer community partnerships through the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation.
FocusMaine will expand statewide efforts to accelerate high-quality job growth in the life sciences, aquaculture, and agriculture—with a focus on skills and talent development.
Colby College will advance economic revitalization of Waterville through the redevelopment of multiple community properties and the construction of a state-of-the-art athletic and recreation center.
Waterville Creates! will be funded to support partnerships with Colby College through the construction of the Paul J. Schupf Center for the Arts, as well as fund the operations of Waterville Creates!, the leader of arts and cultural programming in the city.
The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) will use its funding to support the Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative, increase patient access to genomic therapies and clinical trials, and create new digital tools to enable genetic services in rural settings.
“Our state faces unprecedented challenges,” said Greg Powell, Chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation. “In the face of these challenges, we still see a bright, prosperous future for the people of Maine. Today’s grants are to vital, high-performing Maine institutions who will help build that future.”
Governor Janet Mills praised the investment. “I am grateful to the Harold Alfond Foundation for their partnership in making our long term goal of welcoming all innovators home to Maine a reality. By bringing together higher education institutions, research institutions, community organizations and business leaders, this initiative will fuel new opportunities for Maine people and diversify and expand our economy at a critical moment in our state’s history.”
The Harold Alfond Foundation was established in 1950 by Harold Alfond, the founder of the Dexter Shoe Company and a longtime supporter of Maine’s communities and people. That foundation has emphasized three broad giving areas: education, healthcare, and youth and community development.
The Smith Gift
Smith College reported on Tuesday that it had received a $50 million gift for its endowment. The gift was from an alumna who chose to remain anonymous and who made the donation through a private foundation. The college said it was the largest gift from an individual donor in Smith’s history.
In announcing the gift, Smith College President Kathleen McCartney said that the donor has designated $40 million for student financial aid and $10 million to re-envision the college’s career development programs.
“I could not be more grateful for this alumna’s generosity, vision and belief in the power of a Smith education,” McCartney said. “Her investment in the college will allow us to make a giant stride in equalizing the Smith experience for students from low- and middle-income backgrounds.”
For her part, the alumna donor said, “Smith had a meaningful impact on my life, both personally and professionally, and I feel an obligation to pay it back.”