The University of Maine School of Forest Resources will be able to attract more of the best and brightest students from across the country after a 1937 forestry graduate left a $12 million bequest to establish the George L. Houston Scholarship Fund.
“This donation will benefit generations of students and enhance UMaine’s ability to serve our state in a unique and invaluable way,” President Robert Kennedy said.
Announced in September 2007, the bequest is the largest in the University’s history and will support both undergraduate and graduate scholarships that will be awarded annually.
Houston, who left his bequest through the University of Maine Foundation, died in 2007 at age 91. He was born in Bangor and raised in Brewer. An executive involved with surveying and engineering, he lived primarily in New York, but moved back to Bangor during the latter part of his life. In 1995 he donated his 217-acre family farm in Hudson to UMaine through the University’s Green Endowment Program.
Edward Ashworth, dean of UMaine’s College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture, called Houston’s gift “remarkable, not only for the level of generosity, but also for the investment in future generations of foresters and the demonstration of confidence that he has in the School of Forest Resources.”
The scholarships will attract more talented young people to consider careers in forestry, said the dean, noting that excellent students “raise the bar” and enrich the learning environment for everyone. Few university forestry programs have this many scholarships available, “so clearly this means that UMaine will continue to be the place to learn forestry.”
Professor Steve Reiling, interim director of the School of Forest Resources, said an ambitious national recruiting effort would begin immediately. Thanks to the bequest, $500,000-$600,000 in scholarships will be available each year. Depending on student need and qualifications, 5-10 undergraduate scholarships and two or three graduate scholarships could be handed out annually.
The gift “guarantees that we can continue to provide the high quality educational program and the high quality graduates needed by this industry which is in transition,” he said.
Amos Orcutt, president and CEO of the University of Maine Foundation, said even though Houston spent most of his life out of state, he continued to value the thriftiness and strong work ethic that typifies Maine people.
“He was crusty and could sound gruff at times, but he had a heart of gold and wanted to do the right thing,” Orcutt said. “Forestry and wildlife education was important to him and he loved the University of Maine.”