Playing football for the University of Maine, Rod Sparrow ’71 loved the sport but received his share of sprains, strains and bruises. Now, he has given a generous gift that supports both the athletic program and a state-of-the-art facility that helps students learn how to treat sports injuries.
Sparrow and his wife Deborah ‘72, residents of Bolton, Mass., have contributed $40,000 to the UMaine football program and $90,000 to the new athletic training education facility dedicated to the memory of Wes Jordan, the legendary trainer who treated thousands of UMaine athletes. Considered one of the top trainers in the country, Jordan died in 2002 after more than three decades at UMaine.
The Harold Alfond Foundation will match Sparrow’s gift dollar for dollar, so his contribution effectively has generated $80,000 for the UMaine football program, providing invaluable support for the Black Bears. His gift, combined with others, is supporting facility upgrades, technology, recruiting, scholarships and equipment.
Knowing that his contribution would be enhanced through the Alfond Foundation was great motivation, he says.
“It was a tremendous incentive. I couldn’t pass it up. Football was a big part of my life at UMaine.”
Meanwhile, Sparrow’s gift to the Wes Jordan Athletic Training Education Complex in Lengyel Gym has enhanced the quality of UMaine’s new, curriculum-based athletic training education program which earned national accreditation in 2005 and has become one of the most prestigious such programs on the east coast. It was Jordan’s dream to establish an accredited athletic training program and he had been working with UMaine on that endeavor.
For Sparrow, it seemed only right to contribute to the facility named after Wes Jordan who had been a friend and mentor to so many student athletes. “He could really relate to the kids. You always had a good feeling when you saw him – you knew he was going to take good care of you. Once, during football practice when I had heat prostration, he was a tremendous help. He did all the right things to bring my body temperature back to normal. I really have to tip my hat to the professional way he handled my condition.”
Sparrow solicited other alumni for contributions to the facility, which officially opened in 2007, and says that although Jordan never got to see the project completed, his family was “very proud of the University” for creating the complex.
For his part, Sparrow is pleased that his gift has given a boost to Campaign Maine, the University’s six-year, $150 million comprehensive capital campaign. “I hope I can set an example for others to think about also donating.”
His contribution also has bolstered the athletic training program which has become tremendously popular, according to O.J. Logue, associate dean for academic services in the College of Education and Human Development, where the curriculum is offered.
“Rod’s gift is not only significant monetarily, but is one of the most endearing gifts in terms of paying tribute to a man who not only profoundly impacted his life, but so many others for years to come.”
Athletics aren’t the only reason Sparrow feels passionately about giving to his alma mater. A business major, he says the education he received at UMaine went a long way in giving him the knowledge and expertise to run Leaktite Corporation, his family’s successful fourth generation business in Leominster, Mass. With 70 employees, Leaktite produces utility pails and paint trays and liners that are used in a wide variety of industrial, commercial and consumer-product applications.
Thanks to UMaine’s “nuts and bolts type classes” and tough but caring professors, he says he came away with “the basics of running a company so that I could develop Leaktite Corporation to where it is today.”
A former member of Sigma Chi, Sparrow says his classmates made him and other students from out of state feel right at home. “The kids we knew from Maine were great. My first roommate was from Bethel. He’d go home weekends to work at the local Western Auto Hardware Store and come back every Sunday night with two apple pies that his mother would bake for us.”
Sparrow, who keeps in touch with a number of friends from UMaine, says his alma mater comes up often even with business acquaintances to whom he happily proclaims his Black Bear status.
“It’s been 35 years since I’ve graduated, but I’m proud that UMaine’s reputation has been maintained and I’m proud to be an alumnus.”
Image Description: Rod Sparrow '71
The Class of 2010 is learning about school spirit from some of the University of Maine’s most dedicated and generous alumni.
Inspired by the Class of ‘44 and their love of their alma mater, the students are planning a class gift that pays tribute to the time honored traditions that have shaped UMaine. They are raising money to build a 2500-foot brick path across campus that will highlight the customs, events and organizations Black Bears have cherished over the years including the Maine Hello; Maine Day; Bananas the Bear; and the Maine Stein Song.
“Traditions Trail” is proposed to begin at Memorial Union, wend its way behind Carnegie and Balentine halls, alongside Chadbourne Hall and Lengyel Gym, and end at Buchanan Alumni House. The walkway will be divided into 10-foot sections that the Class of 2010, along with other UMaine classes, will purchase.
Students typically wait until they are seniors to focus on their class gift, but the sophomores decided to start early after Al McNeilly ’44 told them last year during new-student orientation about the traditions that united his class and enabled them to forge a lifelong bond with each other and with UMaine.
The loyalty shown by members of the Class of ’44 has become legendary. Collectively, they have given more than $8 million to the University and $3 million in planned gifts. They have provided countless scholarships, named the School of Performing Arts building and renovated the Bear’s Den. Their names are on the Buchanan Alumni House, The Bodwell Lounge and the McNeilly Lobby. Several class members have served for years on the President’s Development Council, the University of Maine Alumni Association, the University of Maine Foundation, and many other volunteer boards and committees.
Addressing the Class of 2010 last year, Al advised students to begin work on their project early so they would develop the love and passion for the University epitomized by his class. He also issued a challenge.
“I told them there were only 400 of us in the Class of ’44, but that we were able to leave our mark and do a few things on campus,” he says. “I told them there were over 2,000 of them and so they ought to be able to beat the dickens out of us and do even more good things for the University.”
Al also told the students that his class would act as mentors, help them get organized and provide seed money for the project.
“My classmates have endorsed this support and we’ve adopted the Class of 2010,” he says.
That was all the motivation the students needed to roll up their collective sleeves, elect officers, and start thinking about their class gift. They liked the idea of building a walkway, but decided it wasn’t enough to simply put their name on it. Their goal was to create class unity and school spirit while preserving tradition.
“We wanted to leave our own legacy, but we also wanted to look back at the past and appreciate it,” says Ashley Robinson, chair of public relations for the class. “The Traditions Trail will be a way to show everyone that these are the University’s traditions and that we take them seriously.”
Meanwhile, new traditions have been borne. Following the mentoring model set by the Class of 1944, the Alumni Association is working with other alumni classes to sponsor current classes. Val Mitchell, reunion fund coordinator and class advisor with the University of Maine Alumni Association, says the Class of 1953 has connected with the Class of 2008; the Class of 1959 with the Class of 2009; and the Class of 1951 with the Class of 2011. The Class of 1952 has pledged their support to the Class of 2012 when they arrive this fall.
Most importantly, she says, the Class of 2010 will “build pride while on campus and come to realize UMaine is something bigger than just going to class every day. And when they leave they’ll carry that with them.”
Matt Donahue, class vice president, already sees it happening. “Being a member of the Class of 2010 means something now.”
He and other sophomores agree that Al and the Class of ’44 has given them a better idea of their role and responsibility both before and after graduation. Someday they hope to return the favor and become mentors themselves.
“We want to start accomplishing things now to make a difference at UMaine but we’re also thinking about our role as alumni,” says James Morin, class treasurer. “The thought of us coming back in 30 years and walking the Traditions Trail is amazing.”
Students also are delighted at the relationship they have developed with the Class of ’44.
“We have struck gold with them as mentors,” says Gimbala Sankare, class president. “The Class of ‘44 is passing the torch and preparing us to be better alumni. They’re making sure we understand how to represent ourselves, our class and the whole university.”
The University of Maine’s Hutchinson Center has received a $200,000 Unity Foundation challenge grant to support its planned expansion.
UMaine announced in August a campaign to raise $2 million in private funds to help create a 15,000 square foot addition at the Belfast center. The new wing will house additional classroom space, science labs and other facilities critical to the center’s future as UMaine’s primary educational and outreach connection with mid-coast Maine.
The Hutchinson Center’s private fundraising effort is part of Campaign Maine, the University’s six-year, $150 million comprehensive campaign.
A campaign volunteer committee led by Judy Stein and retired Hutchinson Center Director James Patterson has been working on private fundraising for several months. The Hutchinson Center project’s total price is $4 million, with the balance coming from a bond to be repaid through future revenue generated through the center’s expanded activities.
The Unity Foundation requires UMaine to match the $200,000 by raising the same amount from other sources. The late Bert Clifford established the foundation in 2000 to help nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions to arts/culture, recreation, community/economic development, education, the environment and youth.
Bion Foster ’68, ‘70G is an ardent supporter of the University of Maine where his generosity, dedication and enthusiasm are well known. Serving on a host of boards and committees, he enjoys helping guide the University toward a bright future and embraces the opportunity to tell people about the first-class education he received.
But it was long after he graduated that the successful real estate developer, business development consultant and entrepreneur became actively involved with his alma mater. Ten years ago, after agreeing to join the University of Maine Alumni Association’s board of directors, he arrived on campus where a flood of happy memories promptly engulfed him.
“It was just like flicking on a light switch. It brought back all the wonderful times I had and it resurrected an appreciation for my UMaine education,” says the Hampden native who earned a BS in marketing and an MBA in finance.
Bion and his wife, Dorain ’68H, special projects coordinator at the UMaine Office of Development, have given $1.5 million to name UMaine’s Student Innovation Center where students gain the knowledge, tools and inspiration to turn their great ideas into thriving businesses and become successful entrepreneurs.
The couple made the gift to honor their four daughters and their families: Andrea Foster; Pamela Foster Albert, husband Keith and sons Caleb and Breccan; Joan Hopkins, husband Brian and son Drew and daughter Kate; and Holly Kopp and husband Ian and son Blair and daughter Emma.
“It is fitting that this facility will bear the name of Bion and Dorain Foster,” UMaine President Robert Kennedy said. “They are true innovators and entrepreneurs who have succeeded in business and become community leaders because they exemplify the skill, intelligence, work ethic and creativity that we strive to develop in our students.”
The gift was announced early in January at the Bion and Dorain Foster Student Innovation Center where more than 100 students, faculty, staff members, friends and family members gathered to thank the couple for their ongoing support of UMaine.
“I can’t think of a building that means more for the future of Maine than what can go on right here,” Campaign Maine co-chair Allen Fernald said at the event.
Some of the money donated by the Fosters will be used to support the Student Recreation and Fitness Center, where the second-floor multipurpose room is named in their honor, and for scholarship funds through an endowment at the University of Maine Foundation.
“Bion and Dorain are truly exemplary community leaders, and their long-term devotion to the University of Maine will have a positive impact for many years to come,” said Barbara Beers, UMaine’s vice president for development. “Campaign Maine is a success because people like the Fosters see UMaine as an invaluable, unique resource that is worthy of their philanthropy. We are deeply appreciative of this gift, and of the Fosters’ decades of meaningful support.”
Naming the Bion and Dorain Foster Student Innovation Center is a way to say thanks to the University, says Bion, who put himself through school flipping hamburgers at a fast-food restaurant in Bangor that he leased and operated, and working as an operations analyst for Dead River Company in Bangor.
Applying the theories he was learning in the classroom to the practical experience he was getting through his part-time jobs helped hone his entrepreneurial talent and paved the way for a successful professional life.
“Over the course of my business career I became more and more appreciative of my UMaine education,” he says. “Especially after earning my MBA I felt very confident that I could be successful.”
Today, Bion is serving his alma mater in a variety of roles. He is a member of the University of Maine Board of Visitors and the President’s Development Council, and he has chaired the University of Maine Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Volunteering for the University Bion says he has met more alumni and more people from his graduating class than he ever knew as a student. “I love to hear their stories. The camaraderie I’ve gained in the past 10 years reinforced what I already knew – that no college in the country could have provided me with a better education, and that UMaine people are a wonderful group.”
It’s never too late to establish ties with alumni, he says.
“If we can find an opportunity to reconnect with fellow alumni no matter what their stage of life it will be a win-win for both them and the University.”
Says Dorain, “Bion’s passion and enthusiasm made it hard for me not to get excited about UMaine myself. The University is fortunate to have alumni like him.”
Named “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2001 by the Finance Authority of Maine and “Business Person of the Year” in 2003 by the Hampden Business Association, Bion has been helping to improve the economic well-being of central and eastern Maine for 35 years. He has been active in entrepreneurial activities, including the start-up, acquisition or ownership of more than 40 companies in Maine and South Carolina. Former owner of the historic Lucerne Inn in Dedham, he is economic development director for the town of Hampden where, among other things, he built a shopping center, rehabilitated numerous properties, and helped create the Hampden Business and Commerce Park. He is co-owner of one of the premier residential developments in the town, Oldfield Estates.
Bion likes the idea that the Student Innovation Center enables young people to hone their entrepreneurial spirit while they’re still in school. As a budding businessman when he was a student, he says he could have benefited greatly from such a place.
Meanwhile, he looks forward to lending his expertise.
“I love sitting down with students and passing along any ideas and thoughts as well as pitfalls to avoid,” he says. “So many people have technical minds and great ideas, but aren’t sure how to take their creative ideas to the marketplace.”
Image Description: Bion '68, MBA'70 and Dorain '68H Foster
Jon Ippolito, an assistant professor of new media who believes that art should be displayed and not hidden away in a closet, has donated to the University of Maine Museum of Art eight oil paintings by his father, Angelo Ippolito, internationally exhibited artist and renowned member of the New York School of abstract expressionism.
Works by Angelo Ippolito, who died in 2001, are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian Institution. His paintings also hang in numerous corporate, university and private collections in Europe.
Now Maine residents will be able to see Angelo Ippolito’s oils, famous for their bright, colorful, abstract shapes. The works are planned to be unveiled late next fall at the UMaine museum in Norumbega Hall, downtown Bangor, as part of an Angelo Ippolito exhibition.
“I feel that the best place to store a painting is on the wall at a museum,” says Jon. “And my father would be happy to find that was the destination.”
The paintings, valued at an estimated $350,000, will provide a significant boost to Campaign Maine, the University’s six-year, $150 million comprehensive capital campaign.
Angelo Ippolito was a “pretty colorful character,” says his son. Born in Italy in 1922, he came to New York when he was nine. Unable to speak English, he dropped out of school and enrolled in art classes at the Brooklyn Museum. After serving in World War II, he continued to study art both in the U.S. and in Europe. He helped found The Tanager, one of the first art galleries in New York City’s downtown, which became the “epicenter of the art world.”
A tenured professor despite never having graduated from high school, Angelo Ippolito served as faculty or artist-in-residence at a number of universities including Michigan State University, Binghamton University, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.
Angelo enjoyed watching the blossoming young artists find their personal niche, according to Jon. “He believed in listening to students and helping each one find her own voice.”
Charged with making sure his father’s art “goes to good homes,” Jon says that UMaine’s museum struck him as the perfect spot for the paintings, some of which are 10 feet wide. “The space has to be capacious and airy and befitting the scale and ambition of these works. The UMaine Museum of Art fits the bill.”
Professor Laurie Hicks, interim director of UMaine’s museum, says the paintings are a welcome addition. “This is a very substantial gift that’s going to move the museum toward a broader sense of itself. I’m excited by the fact that we’re going to exhibit them in the very near future.”
Jon, who says he will enjoy having some of his father’s paintings in his own backyard, was impressed with the dedication and enthusiasm of Professor Hicks and her staff.
“They not only welcomed my gift but also very quickly put together the legal, financial and logistical instruments to make this happen. I’m so grateful to them for helping make this possible.”
Image Description: Sunset Regatta by Angelo Ippolito