Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
A few minutes ago, Chancellor Dannel Malloy shared some extraordinary news about the Harold Alfond Foundation’s historic commitment of $240 million to the University of Maine System. This investment in the UMS is the eighth-largest gift ever made to a U.S institution of higher education and the largest ever to a public institution of higher education in New England.
As a citizen of Maine, I couldn’t be happier about this gift and more grateful to the Harold Alfond Foundation. I hope you will join me in thanking the Foundation for this infusion of resources and all of the opportunities it creates for the System, USM, and the people of Maine.
The Harold Alfond Foundation’s 12-year pledge will be focused on four areas, with significant funding allocated for USM.
Here’s a detailed overview of the gift’s impact as it relates to USM, UMaine, and the System:
$20 million for Student Success and Retention
- For System-wide programs that include research and learning opportunities for first- and second-year undergraduate students, a gateways-to-success initiative to expand learning assistance and curricular redesign to reduce failure rates and improve retention in “gateway” STEM courses, and a pathways-to-careers program to expand access to credit-bearing internships and other experiential learning opportunities.
$55 million for the Maine Graduate and Professional Center
- For constructing a state-of-the-art building on USM’s Portland campus to house the Maine Graduate and Professional Center programs, to serve as a center for collaboration and engagement, and to help grow and strengthen Maine’s economy
- For supporting scholarships and integrated program development across business, law, public policy, and graduate engineering programs
$75 million for a multi-university partnership in Engineering, Computing and Information Science
- For providing additional undergraduate engineering programs at USM, UMaine graduate engineering programs offered in Portland, expanded pathways into the partnership from all UMS universities, new opportunities for shared programs, interdisciplinary structures and partnerships, and further renovations to UMaine’s engineering education infrastructure alongside the Ferland Engineering Education and Design Center currently under construction.
- For launching a new USM degree program in industrial engineering as a complement to our historically strong programs in electrical and mechanical engineering that many Maine businesses rely upon for skilled employees
$90 million for athletic facilities at UMaine and for the well-being of Maine people
- For maintaining excellence in Maine’s Division I athletic program, advancing gender equity, and providing a preferred destination for high school sports championships, large academic fairs and competitions, and community events. All UMaine students and people from all over Maine will be able to use the state-of-the-art athletic and convening venues
What The Gift Means for USM
The Harold Alfond Foundation’s gift to the state is a tremendous investment in the people of Maine. The commitment will help advance education and infrastructure that will aid in the state’s economic recovery and help prepare Maine for the future. The investment will allow System universities to add even greater value to our state’s workforce and will strengthen our graduates' contributions to their communities.
I’m thrilled to report that under the proposed multi-university partnership in engineering, computing, and information science, USM’s longstanding and nationally ranked programs in electrical and mechanical engineering will be complemented by a new USM degree program in industrial engineering. USM’s historically strong programs in engineering will continue to provide Maine’s economy and workforce with highly skilled employees and innovators, and the University of Maine partnership will provide students with expanded pathways to our future-forward engineering programs.
It’s especially wonderful to see the Harold Alfond Foundation’s commitment to build a new facility for the Maine Graduate and Professional Center on USM’s Portland Campus. This signature building will be the new home of USM’s Muskie School of Public Service as well as Maine Law and the Graduate Business School. The investment will strengthen the Center’s ability to marshal programs in law, business, policy, and public health to grow Maine’s economy. We will all gain from the Center’s ongoing service to Maine’s businesses and civic, legal, and nonprofit organizations.
The Harold Alfond Foundation’s most recent investment is a continuation of its longstanding commitment to the Maine Graduate and Professional Center. The Foundation invested $2 million to support the Maine Center planning process in 2014 and, three years later, the Foundation announced a $7.5 million challenge grant to the University of Maine System to implement the plan. At the time, this was the largest private gift to a multi-campus effort in UMS history.
The Foundation’s historic investment also builds on a period of unprecedented momentum at USM.
The $20 million allocated System-wide for Student Success and Retention comes at a particularly advantageous time for USM as later this spring we will break ground on USM’s Portland Campus Development Project, including construction of the Career & Student Success Center (CSSC). Supported by the Foundation’s investment Student Success and Retention, we will develop and further strengthen programming and infrastructure to optimally connect our employer community with students and faculty in the CSSC.
The $100 million Portland Campus Development Project (which is separately funded from the Alfond Foundation gift) is the largest building plan in USM history and involves the construction of not only the CSSC, but also the Portland Commons Residence Hall and a new Residential Quad that will serve as our campus green and a natural entry-point to our Portland campus.
The Harold Alfond Foundation’s commitment, together with several large, recent gifts from alumni and friends, clearly signals that we have entered a new era of philanthropic investment and donor confidence at USM. These gifts will catalyze not only more opportunities for USM students, but also more investments in the University. Over the coming months, USM Foundation President and CEO Ainsley Wallace and I look forward to sharing more exciting announcements about new levels of generosity from our many loyal supporters.
Even though the full impact of the Foundation’s generosity will be realized over the coming years, the announcement has the immediate benefit of raising USM’s visibility for prospective students and their parents. Fortunately, the announcement of the historic gift closely follows USM’s first-ever rankings by U.S. News & World Report — as a top-50 public regional university in the northern U.S., for being among the top 125 undergraduate engineering programs nationwide, and among the highest performing regional universities in the northern U.S. for social mobility.
All of this transformational progress at USM confirms our distinction — who we are and where we are, at the intellectual, cultural, and economic heart of Maine. With the opportunities afforded us by Unified Accreditation, new degree programs, growing philanthropic investments, and an ascendant reputation for academic excellence and affordability, USM has never been stronger for our students and the citizens of Maine.
Your University Cabinet and I look forward to working with everyone in the USM community on realizing the potential of the Harold Alfond Foundation’s commitments. I am confident that we will be appreciative stewards and provide the Foundation and the people of Maine with a strong return on this extraordinary investment.
With deepest gratitude to the Harold Alfond Foundation,
President, The University of Southern Maine