Skowhegan natives E. James “Jim” Ferland and Eileen P. Ferland were revealed Thursday as the anonymous donors who gave $10 million last year to help build the Engineering Education and Design Center at the University of Maine, Orono.

The new facility will be named in honor of the couple, whose gift was revealed Thursday by Jeffery Mills, president and chief executive officer of the University of Maine Foundation, at the UMaine Alumni Association 2019 reunion dinner on campus where Jim Ferland was celebrating his 55th class reunion, according to a press release.

The E. James and Eileen P. Ferland Engineering Education and Design Center will house the biomedical engineering program and the department of mechanical engineering, as well as teaching laboratories for mechanical engineering technology. It also will provide space for all UMaine engineering majors to complete their senior capstone projects, the release says.

The Ferlands’ gift in March 2018 helped the UMaine Foundation set a record for giving totals — $17.4 million in private support from more than 350 individuals, corporations and foundations. More than $66 million of the $75 million to $77 million project total has now been raised.

According to Mills, the Ferlands’ investment gave the Engineering and Education Design Center fundraising campaign momentum, inspiring others to believe that “together, this project will be accomplished,” the release says.

“We are pleased to make a contribution toward improving the infrastructure at UMaine, and hope others will be encouraged to join in bringing this important project to the finish line,” Jim Ferland said.

University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy thanked the Ferlands and other UMaine alumni class leaders for their contributions and recognized the Maine Legislature’s critical $50 million investment in the  facility, intended to benefit Maine and its future workforce.

“The Engineering Education and Design Center will transform engineering education at UMaine, and for the state, fostering an even more collaborative community of learners, teachers and partners,” Ferrini-Mundy said. “This new facility will help fulfill a critical need by educating engineers for Maine and beyond, and it aligns with the University of Maine System plan for research and development.”

“An engineering education provides a strong foundation for a wide range of careers,” Jim Ferland said. He and his wife, Eileen, previously endowed a $1 million Engineering Excellence scholarship at the University of Maine Foundation to encourage students from their hometown of Skowhegan to consider the University of Maine engineering program.

Jim Ferland received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from UMaine in 1964 and began his career as an engineer with the Hartford Electric Light Co., a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities in Connecticut. In 1967 he joined the initial operating staff of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station and in 1976 became station superintendent, the same year he achieved a master’s in business administration from the University of New Haven. He completed the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration’s Program for Management Development in 1977 and shortly thereafter was named executive vice president and chief financial officer of Northeast Utilities. He became its president in 1983.

In 1986, he was recruited by Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG) as chairman, president and chief executive officer, positions he held through retirement in 2007 — making him the longest serving CEO in the industry. Jim and Eileen Ferland split their time between homes in Florida and Maine and enjoy boating and traveling with their son, daughter and four grandchildren.

“UMaine needs to produce more engineers to solve our world’s most challenging problems,” said UMaine College of Engineering Dean Dana Humphrey. “The Ferland Engineering Education and Design Center will give UMaine the capacity to educate up to 3,000 engineering students to meet the demand for our graduates from companies in Maine and beyond.”

Currently, UMaine engineering graduates have a 99% placement rate in careers or graduate school.

A groundbreaking for the Ferland Engineering Education and Design Center is planned in spring 2020, with anticipated completion in 2022.

Fundraising for the estimated $75 million to $77 million project continues, including opportunities to name spaces in the facility. More information is available on the University of Maine Foundation website.

The Ferland center project is part of UMaine’s $200 million Vision for Tomorrow comprehensive campaign, which has raised more than $182 million, led by the University of Maine Foundation.

The University of Maine, founded in Orono in 1865, is the state’s land grant, sea grant and space grant university. Those wanting more information may visit umaine.edu.


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