Thomas College’s Campaign Launches with Historic Harold Alfond Foundation Gift
In 2017, Thomas College leadership, volunteers, and staff set out on a path to raise funds for several key initiatives in its Guarantee the Future Campaign: increase scholarship aid to make a Thomas education more affordable; invest in academic and student success programs to help students stay on the path to graduation and careers; create a new athletic facility at the Kennebec Savings Turf Field Complex to make a home for the College’s athletic program; and, continue to grow the Thomas Fund, the College’s annual fundraising effort.
The comprehensive campaign quietly grew beyond the College’s early expectations, thanks especially to early enthusiasm and generosity from the Board of Trustees. Soon, inspired by the College’s student-centered vision, volunteers, alumni, foundations, friends, families, and even students themselves followed suit – and the goal of raising $13.5 million was within reach.
A Historic Investment at a Historic Time
The College also sought the help of Maine’s top foundation and long-time investor, the Harold Alfond Foundation.
This October, the Foundation announced that it was investing an unprecedented $500 million in eight Maine organizations, including Thomas, which received a $13.5 million grant, the largest in the College’s history. The Foundation’s gift supports the launch of new academic programs, enhanced student retention programs, expanded affordability initiatives, and deepening academic and employer community partnerships through the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation.
“Maine is going through a challenging time right now, but it is going to get better, and the time to start building the foundation for a better future is now,” said Greg Powell, Chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation. “Thomas is a very important member of that team.”
“The Foundation’s historic gift to Thomas College is a vote of confidence in our vision to provide unparalleled and affordable professional and career development and in our legacy of producing the workforce to fuel economic growth,” said President Laurie Lachance M.B.A. ’92.
Now, in the spirit of Harold Alfond himself, who encouraged beneficiaries to leverage his giving to enlist others in philanthropy, Thomas was essentially matching the Foundation’s $13.5 million with its own $13.5 million goal for a total $27 million campaign – more than twice its previous campaign’s aim. As of this magazine’s printing, less than $750,000 remains to be raised by December 31.
Doubling Down on the Thomas Experience
“Thomas was that school that came to me and said, ‘We’re going to help you through your journey of your school life and your personal life, and you can do it,’” said Isaac Salisbury ’20. “I enrolled, I loved it, and I graduated.” Salisbury now works in the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation.
Cassidy Pinkham ’18, M.B.A. ’19, who joined the accounting firm Albin, Randall, & Bennett after graduating, served on the Guarantee the Future Campaign Committee for two years. She adds, “I have my career success because of Thomas. I grew so much as a student and I am so happy because of my time here. I just want to give back as much as I can.”
Campaign Co-Chair Doug Cutchin H’09 notes that student successes like Isaac’s and Cassidy’s are a longstanding tradition at Thomas, and why he and wife Marie (Wing) Cutchin ’62 are committed to the College. “We have been deeply impressed with Thomas College’s growth from a solid, very small junior college to a truly fine institution with a curriculum that prepares graduates for productive careers and active community service,” says Doug, who also serves on the Board of Trustees. “We know well how Thomas impacts its students, particularly first-generation students, as we have come to know these students through our own family. Thomas positions all of its students to succeed long after graduation.”
“Thomas has been working steadily and strategically at increasing the rates of our students’ success,” notes Dr. Debbie Cunningham, Vice President of Student Success. “The community that cares deeply about our students and that is willing to invest in them is growing – and as that community has grown, so too has our ability to serve and support students all the way through graduation.” Cunningham cites the Student Success Grant program, which awards emergency aid to students in need who might otherwise be forced to drop out. In the 2019-2020 academic year, 88% of students awarded these special grants persisted into the current year or graduated – a sure sign that the College’s work to keep them on track is paying off. The program is supported by philanthropy, including Campaign gifts.
The Case for Support
Thomas provides nearly $10 million in scholarships annually, yet only 4% is funded by our endowment. Growing endowed and immediate scholarship aid makes Thomas more accessible and affordable, plus improves sustainability.
Academic and Student Success Programs
From adding degree programs to investing in paid internships to providing academic coaching, Thomas is dedicated to students’ personal and professional success. Each year, 60-65% are the first in their families to go to a four-year college, and we help them get results; in fact, U.S. News and World Report ranked Thomas 7th this year in northern schools for its ability to impact graduates’ socioeconomic standing.
The student-athlete experience is critical to enrollment and teaches discipline, time management, and team-building skills, yet our athletics program lacks a home. A new, 18,000-square-foot facility overlooking the Smith and Bernatchez Turf Fields will house coaches’ offices, training rooms, esports, locker rooms, and restrooms. It will also include a viewing area for visitors – 30,000+ in a typical year.
The Thomas Fund
The College’s annual fund provides vital aid for faculty support and development, technology, campus maintenance, and more. Bolstering this fund creates flexible support for the College to use where it is needed most.
How You Can Help
Interested in making a gift? Please visit wwwold.thomas.edu/give to donate and track our progress, or contact Interim VP of Advancement Erin Baltes at [email protected] for more information. Thank you!
*This story was originally published in the Fall 2020 Thomas Magazine & Annual Report.