The University of Maine System has received a $240 million gift — the largest in its history and the eighth-largest for a public institution of higher education.
The investment comes from the Harold Alfond Foundation, which announced earlier this week that it was donating half-a-billion dollars to eight organizations across the state to boost the state’s workforce and economy.
The university will set aside $90 million of of its total gift toward building and upgrading athletic fields across the University of Maine’s Orono campus, with a particular emphasis on gender equity.
Athletic Director Ken Ralph says facilities are one of the largest drivers of inequities between men’s and women’s sports on campus. As one example, he says the women’s soccer team’s primary field is located in the outfield of the college’s baseball stadium.
“While we’ll still have some work to do, this is going to go a long way to ensuring our compliance with federal law. And also, the ethical, right thing to do,” he says.
The system will also invest in a new college of engineering and computer sciences that will be shared across campuses, as well as money for increased scholarships and student retention initiatives.
University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings says the new college will give students from any of the state’s seven campuses an easier pathway to enrolling in engineering or computer science classes, and hopefully increase the number of graduates in the state.
“Specifically, it allows students to have more access to courses that are transferable between the seven sisters, so that we can have more students going through, every four years, to be able to accelerate the number of completed engineers,” he says.