In March 2017, the Thomas family lost a beloved coworker and friend: Rebecca Kane, who worked for seven years at the Welcome Center, mail desk, and in the Admissions Office before her battle with breast cancer ended. Known for her caring personality, wonderful sense of humor, and selfless nature, Rebecca was beloved among students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
Now, to honor her memory, her husband Kenny has created a scholarship in Rebecca’s name to support students in need. In just one short year, he and son Kaleb have rallied support from family, friends, and the College community itself to pass on the kind of help that Rebecca offered to others every day.
“When my mom was sick, Thomas did a lot for her, for my dad, for me,” says Kaleb, who will graduate in 2020. “We wanted to give back to students who are community-minded and who shine like she did.”
Kenny, known for his own quickness to laugh and for his funny expressions (“Holy Hannaford” is a favorite), is moved to tears talking about his wife’s impact at Thomas. “Everyone she met she treated with kindness and respect. She’d make me cook dinner for every student who couldn’t get home during break. That’s just who she was.”
“We want to take a fraction of her kindness and give it to students in her name,” Kaleb adds.
Thanks to the Kanes’ efforts, people who loved Rebecca have contributed more than $11,000 towards a goal of $25,000 – the benchmark for establishing an endowed scholarship fund at the College. The endowment will then generate scholarship support annually and in perpetuity. The outpouring of aid includes a monthly contribution from Kenny, too.
“We had no financial worries during the last couple years of Bec’s life because of the community, the school, and others who helped us,” he says. “Now I give back some of the Social Security money I receive from her passing, plus some of the donations given to us during that time. I had to pay it forward and do something that would last forever, that would epitomize what Rebecca was all about at Thomas College.”
Student members of the Phi Beta Lambda business leadership group, along with advisor and Associate Professor Roberta Tibbetts ’69, ’71, have also raised money for the fund. “Students loved her – and it’s important that we remember her,” says Tibbetts.
Longtime friend and Waterville High School classmate Lisa Joy also reached out to the College to help generate support. “It’s reunion time for our class, and Rebecca is on our minds and hearts. It seemed natural to want to take the opportunity to invite classmates to help boost the fund to endowment status,” she says.
Thanks to an anonymous donor, there will be even more reason for friends and family to contribute to Rebecca’s scholarship fund on the College’s Day of Giving, April 9. If 50 individuals donate, that person will add $1,000 to the fund.
Kenny visits campus often to reconnect with staff, run on the new Sukeforth Family Trail System with his dog Sammy, and check in on how the fundraising is going. “I look at life a lot differently since she’s been gone,” he reflects. “There isn’t a day that goes by when one of her mannerisms or her ideas doesn’t affect how I treat others. She was quite an influence, in a very good way. I miss her. I don’t cry as much now; I laugh more.”
*This story was originally published in the Winter/Spring 2019 Thomas Magazine.