Students meet the faces behind the financial support of the Worthington Scholarship

The Worthington Scholarship carries an added value in personal relationships that goes beyond the dollars and cents of financial support.

The founders of the scholarship met with recipients to strengthen those bonds at a presidential reception on Thursday, October 7. They chatted over refreshments at the Alumni Reception Room in the Costello Sports Complex on the Gorham campus.

David and Beverly Worthington attend a reception for recipients of the Worthington Scholarship.
David and Beverly Worthington enjoy getting to know the students who receive financial assistance through the Worthington Scholarship.

The Worthington Scholarship provides up to $16,500 to students who meet the academic and financial criteria over their full tenure at participating four-year colleges in Maine. It’s currently available to students from Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Waldo and Washington Counties.

A big growth spurt next year will add Oxford, Somerset, Piscataquis, Penobscot, Franklin and Sagadahoc Counties into the program. That would double the current distribution of 200 scholarships totaling more than $3 million. Almost $160,000 of that amount went to USM students this year.

Vocal Performance major Emma Hallundbaek chats with David Worthington at a reception for Worthington Scholarship recipients.
The Worthington Scholarship has helped Emma Hallundbaek (pictured right) as she pursues a degree in Vocal Performance.

“I’m paying for my own school, so it means everything to me,” said Grace Blackwell, a third-year student majoring in Biology. “I wouldn’t be able to, honestly, be at school without the scholarship.”

Blackwell is one of 39 Worthington Scholars currently attending USM, 26 of whom live on campus. That exclusive club expands to 66 members going back to 2012 when USM first began its partnership with the scholarship program.

The initial idea and money for the scholarship came from husband and wife David and Beverly Worthington. They settled on Maine’s Midcoast region after traveling the world for their jobs. David Worthington is an internationally-renowned geophysicist who worked for Shell Oil Company and later created his own business to analyze seismic activity. Beverly Worthington was a commercial pilot.

David Worthington flashes a smile during a reception for recipients of the Worthington Scholarship.
David Worthington is internationally renowned for his work in geophysics.

“Both my wife and I experienced a young life much like the people we’re trying to help in Maine and so we feel a kinship,” said David Worthington. “We’ve taken care of our families and now it’s time to help others. And we just feel good about it.”

The scholarship process isn’t a rubber stamp. Its renewal each year is contingent on achievement in the classroom. On that score, USM’s current crop of Scholars boasts a strong track record with a collective 3.35 grade point average.

“We’re going to help make it possible, but we expect you to work hard,” said Beverly Worthington. “We expect you to make it because we know you can. That’s why you are a Worthington Scholar.”

Beverly Worthington hears from some of the students who benefit from the Worthington Scholarship.
Beverly Worthington chose to live in Maine after traveling far and wide as a commercial pilot.

For their accomplishments and philanthropy, the Worthingtons received honorary degrees as part of USM’s 141st Commencement ceremony on May 8, 2021. The proceedings were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Worthingtons offered their insights to graduates via a recorded message. Five months later, the presidential reception brought them to campus in person to meet with recipients of their scholarship.

“I’m dumbfoundedly surprised with all the support that they’ve given us,” said Emma Hallundbaek, a fourth-year student majoring in Vocal Performance. “To see the [scholarship program’s] expansion over the years is very heartwarming. So, I just want to thank them.”

All of the eight students in attendance got their chance to express their gratitude one-on-one. Introductions were handled by President Glenn Cummings. He brought the crowd to order with a short welcoming statement and then handed over the floor to the students who each spoke in turn about the opportunities the scholarship has afforded them, and not only in terms of money.

President Glenn Cumming welcomes David and Beverly Worthington at a reception for Worthington Scholarship recipients.
President Glenn Cummings welcomes Beverly and David Worthington to the reception at the Costello Sports Complex.

The program is administered by the Worthington Scholarship Foundation. Its commitment to student success doesn’t end once the checks are signed. The Foundation offers support services and works with partner schools to ensure students have the resources they need to navigate potential obstacles on their academic journey and on into their professional lives.

Events like the reception also allow Scholars, through their shared experiences, to build an informal peer support system and network of personal contacts.

“I have these people I can talk to,” said first-year Biology major Jason Weaver. “That’s the goal is to reference back and use these connections I make here to further whatever I do in the future.”

The feelings of appreciation on display at the reception went in both directions. Speaking about the students he got to meet that night, David Worthington said, “It’s a booster for us. It’s the part we enjoy the most.”