Thomas College President Laurie Lachance fields questions from the media Wednesday after it was announced that the school is receiving $13.5 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation. The money will be used to advance athletics and academics at the Waterville school. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Thomas College made a set of major announcements Wednesday, including that it received a $13.5 million grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation. Thomas College President Laurie Lachance said the grant money will fund student scholarships, additional undergraduate and graduate offerings and certificate programs.

The $13.5 million is part of the Harold Alfond Foundation’s overall $500 million investment in Maine’s future, looking to make an impact through grants to higher education, job training and health care institutions. The gift boosted the college’s “Guarantee the Future” fundraising campaign announced in a video Wednesday afternoon.

“It is an amazing investment in our future, and it’s a vote of confidence in the role Thomas plays in producing the future workforce of Maine,” Lachance said in an interview at the college. “To be even a part of this announcement from them is a true honor.”

When Thomas College sophomore Maddie Rock speaks to alumni about Thomas, they always marvel about how much it’s changed since they were a student.

“I’m anxious to see what it will look like for me when I’m asked that question 10 years from now,” said Rock, a Bridgton native and psychology and political science major who plays soccer and softball and runs indoor track at Thomas.

Lachance said fundraising for the campaign portion of the announcement began more than three years ago. She said $6 million of the Alfond grant will go to student scholarships over a nine-year span.

Thomas College student-athletes, from left, Austin Stebbins, Maddie Rock and Ben Gosselin, along with other students at Thomas, will benefit from the school’s $13.5 million share of a gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation. The students are sophomores. The money will be used to advance athletics and academics at the Waterville school. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“That’s immediate impact,” Lachance said. “They are already receiving Alfond scholarships to help them with the cost of going to college and achieve their dreams.”

Around $4 million will go toward adding two academic majors, business analytics and digital media with a concentration in multimedia design or web development.

Thomas is also launching its entire graduate program online and starting a certificate program for advanced studies in cybersecurity, project management and human resource management. Additional faculty will be hired.

“We are thrilled, and it will enable us to serve many more people,” Lachance said. “We will help make the difference for those students who are a great fit for our college, but don’t have the financial means. We’ll fill in the gap with the Alfond scholarship.”

Austin Stebbins, a sophomore from Farmingdale, said he’s proud of Thomas’ trajectory.

“It really just shows the growth Thomas College has had,” said Stebbins, who is studying business and plays baseball. “With this grant, it just shows that we’re growing even more, and that’s just promising for the future.”

The $13.5 million grant is the biggest gift in the college’s history. The fundraising campaign for $27 million has less than $1 million more to raise to reach its goal.

Thomas College President Laurie Lachance fields questions from the media Wednesday after announcing that the school is receiving $13.5 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation. The money will be used to advance athletics and academics at the Waterville school. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Part of the campaign money, roughly $3.5 million, is for a new athletic complex.

Ben Gosselin, a sophomore from Lewiston, said he’s excited to see more students on campus benefit from the scholarship money. He looks forward to seeing students from Maine and additions to the athletic complex.

“Getting better facilities and growing better teams is definitely going to help more and more kids get here,” said Gosselin, who is studying business and plays ice hockey and golf.

Gosselin, Stebbins and Rock all said they benefit from scholarship money.

“Having that opportunity is a relief,” Rock said. “After high school, you usually get scholarships that last your first year, so there are a lot of people with a bunch of money left over. Thomas does a really good job of making sure that the deficit is being filled so we can continue our studies.”

Colby College and Waterville Creates! will also benefit from grants. Colby is set to announce its plans for the grant on Thursday.

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