An Uncommon Philanthropist with the Common Touch

 

The life of benefactor Harold Alfond will be celebrated at Colby in June

By Stephen Collins '74
Photography by Bridget Besaw Gorman
 

Harold and Bibby Alfond
Harold and Bibby Alfond during the dedication of the Harold and Bibby Alfond Residence Complex in 1999. Photo by Bridget Besaw Gorman.
When Harold Alfond graduated from high school in Massachusetts, during the depth of the Great Depression, he could have gone to Dartmouth on an athletic scholarship. Instead he followed his father and became a factory worker in the shoe shops. Over the next 70 years, Alfond built two shoe companies, and became a part-owner of the Boston Red Sox and a major shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway. He built a world-class golf course in Belgrade, Maine, and was called “the world’s most unpretentious millionaire” by Golf magazine.

And he made sure that Maine benefited from his good fortune.

Alfond died Nov. 16, 2007, in Maine, at 93. A major benefactor at Colby and at a host of other institutions in and out of Maine, he will long be remembered as one of Maine’s preeminent philanthropists.

In early June, Colby will be the site for a celebration of his life. Fittingly, the tribute will take place in the Harold Alfond Athletic Center.

Donna Dionne, a custodian in the athletic center, remembers Alfond fondly. “What a nice man,” she said, recalling how sad she was to learn he had died. “He always wanted to see us when he was here, to say thank you for keeping the building so clean.” He also insisted that the custodial staff be included in ceremonial events, such as the dinner when the athletic center was dedicated to him in the mid-1990s.

The Alfond name will forever be linked with Mayflower Hill because of his long affiliation with the College, his enduring loyalty to athletic teams, and because, thanks to substantial gifts, his name adorns facilities including the athletic center, the Harold and Bibby Alfond Residence Complex (senior apartments), the Alfond Rink, the Alfond Track, the Alfond-Wales Tennis Courts, and numerous other spaces and initiatives. He and his wife, Dorothy “Bibby” Alfond, also quietly paid tuition for many children of employees and friends.

Bibby Alfond, who passed away in 2005, was a member of Colby’s Class of 1938. The Alfonds’ son Bill Alfond ’72 is a trustee of the College, and his granddaughter Jennifer Alfond Seeman graduated in 1992. Harold Alfond received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Colby in 1980, one of five honorary degrees he received during his life.

Bill Alfond said his father’s affection for Colby “goes back to his friendships with Galen Eustis [’23], Bill Millett [’25], and, in particular, President Bixler.” In those friends Alfond saw Colby administrators who were kindred spirits—pragmatic Mainers with a firm grasp of what had to be done and who were helping to run the College. Harold Alfond also couldn’t help being infected with the passionate loyalty to Colby embodied in Bibby’s brothers, Ludy ’21 and Pacy Levine ’27. “Dad often talked about all the smart and passionate people at Colby,” Bill Alfond said.

 
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