Maine Memo — October 7

History was made yesterday with the announcement by the Harold Alfond Foundation that it would be making a $500 million investment in Maine and its people, including an unprecedented $240 million gift to the University of Maine System that will have a transformative impact on the University of Maine and the state’s future.

We are incredibly grateful. And we will be prepared as the state’s flagship university to take a collaborative leadership role in advancing the opportunities made possible by this generous gift, both within UMS and with other partners, including the high-performing institutions such as The Jackson Laboratory, the Roux Institute at Northeastern University and FocusMaine that also will be receiving Alfond Foundation grants.

What is so exciting is that the initiatives identified for funding by the Alfond Foundation align with our own Strategic Vision and Values, and our UMS Research and Development Plan. We will immediately engage faculty and other stakeholders in all areas of development and implementation.

This investment is a true catalyst.

Building on the excellence of our own College of Engineering, as well as recent state and private investment in the new Ferland Engineering Education and Design Center, $75 million will launch a multi-university Maine College of Engineering, Computing, and Information Science. It also will fund new scholarships, faculty positions, and renovations to modernize our engineering and computing education infrastructure. Led by UMaine, this statewide, integrated initiative will provide the technical talent and innovations fundamental to advancing all traditional and emerging sectors in Maine and beyond, and critical to moving the Maine economy forward.

As Alfond Foundation Chairman Greg Powell has said, “The University of Maine System is rising to meet the challenges of our state in a very big way. Through the initiatives we are supporting, it is perfectly poised to set new standards for how public higher education serves students and at the same time partners with employers in the pursuit of economic development and opportunity.”

With $20 million from the Alfond Foundation, we will develop new programs to support student retention and success across the University of Maine System, including a UMaine-led Research Learning Experiences Project that will embed a range of experiential learning opportunities into the first and second years of the undergraduate experience. Gateways to Success programming will expand on UMaine’s First-Year Learner Success initiative and success in the new Summer Start program, with a focus on student learning outcomes and high-impact teaching. Pathways to Careers will infuse a more deliberate, visible and effective set of activities that ensure effective career readiness and placement for students to meet Maine’s workforce needs.

An additional $90 million will enhance and ensure gender equity in the infrastructure used by UMaine athletics — the state’s only Division I program. Funds will be used to renovate and upgrade our varsity athletics buildings, and construct multipurpose athletic and event facilities to further serve the state by increasing our ability to host high school and youth competitions.

Finally, with $55 million, the Maine Graduate and Professional Center in Portland will be developed further — building faculty and programs, increasing scholarships and bridges to Maine careers, and constructing a signature building that will be the new home of Maine Law, the Graduate Business School and Muskie School of Public Service.

More details about the investment in the University of Maine System are in a news release online. My video message about this announcement also is online.

UMaine has a long history of generous support from Harold Alfond and the Alfond Foundation. Their vision and leadership have inspired and advanced this university, and its ability to serve our state and well beyond.

This latest commitment by the Alfond Foundation reflects tremendous confidence in the faculty, staff and students of the University of Maine and University of Maine System. Collaboratively, UMS will build on the strong foundations already in place at our universities — especially UMaine — and take our impact to new levels by implementing creative, innovative ideas and programs to serve the students and people of Maine.

I also want to recognize Chancellor Malloy, whose bold leadership and clear vision for our public university system and its central role in driving the state forward are what undoubtedly led the Alfond Foundation to commit to us at such a significant level. This gift is the largest ever to a public institution of higher education in New England. We owe them our greatest thanks.

All of the eight Maine organizations receiving Alfond Foundation investments have critical roles in helping transform Maine’s economy and secure a prosperous future for Maine people. Together, our organizations in partnership with our stakeholders statewide will make important advances in education, innovation and research, and workforce development.

The Alfond Fund investment to UMS will be made over the next 12 years and requires at least a $170 million match. We must be ever-mindful that this funding does not address the serious financial challenges faced by our university and the System, many caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as the Alfond Foundation has recognized our value to the state of Maine, we must continue to work to ensure our neighbors and elected officials do, as well, so we have necessary confidence and investment from them to fully leverage this great gift.

There is much good work to be done. We appreciate the opportunity. I look forward to working with all who are interested in these initiatives and the University of Maine’s leadership in them.