Almost a year later, it’s clear that Colby did keep its head up, and the major initiatives kept moving forward. And then some.
In addition to coping with Covid-19, the College stuck to the plan: continue to move on initiatives that ensure Colby is widely recognized as a prestigious liberal arts college with the innovation and reach of a major research university, and that the student experience is integrated and opportunity-rich.
In August the Colby-owned Lockwood Hotel opened on Main Street for the arrival of students, its role shifting temporarily to meet the need for housing during the pandemic year. Seven months later, the hotel’s flagship restaurant, Front & Main, opened to the public.
Last fall, after the College worked intensively to prepare for students’ arrival, work began to prepare the site for the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, a key venue in Colby’s broad plan to create an “arts ecosystem” with the Colby College Museum of Art, and, on Main Street downtown, the Paul J. Schupf Art Center (construction began in April) and the arts collaborative (opened in April). It’s all part of a multipronged effort to make the arts a more central component of the student experience and to make Waterville an arts destination.
In October the 350,000-square-foot Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center opened on time, reaffirming Colby’s commitment to excellence in athletics and to the health and well-being of the entire community. Students, faculty, and staff—wearing face coverings where appropriate and physically distanced—immediately began using the center.
In January Colby announced the Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence, the first such undertaking of its kind at a liberal arts college. The institute will provide new pathways for talented students and faculty to research, create, and apply AI and machine learning across disciplines, all part of the ongoing strengthening of the academic program to address the world’s challenges.
In addition, in May 2020, the College launched an “Inequality Lab” to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to scholarship, teaching, learning, and community engagement, a move that will ultimately create many courses on inequality and research that will illuminate causes and solutions around this societal challenge. In March of this year, a new concentration was added in literature and environment to the English major to focus on the intersection of social justice and environmental change.
In spite of the pandemic, which had some colleges and universities straining to fill their ranks, applications for the Class of 2025 totaled nearly 16,000, a 13-percent increase from last year’s record.
The enrolling class, finalized in April, is the strongest ever in terms of academic qualifications and diversity, driven by programs like the Colby Commitment, the Fair Shot Fund, and the Pulver Science Scholars Program.
In a year when the College rallied to give students in-person learning and experiences, Colby’s financial supporters also answered the call.
Over the first year of the pandemic from March 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, more than 9,000 donors made gifts to the College totaling $86 million—including over 8,700 donors to the Colby Fund. Despite the complex challenges presented at the time, momentum driven by the collective Colby community continued across all areas, from the arts to the sciences to humanistic inquiry.
Donors propelled forward Dare Northward campaign initiatives, including endowments ranging from financial aid to public policy, the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center, the Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and much more.
In 2020-21, the Dare Northward campaign surpassed $625 million, with 24,000 donors, positioning Colby within reach of its $750-million goal and ever closer to securing Colby’s unique place among top liberal arts colleges in the nation.
“This was not a moment to pause and sit back,” Greene said. “This was a moment to really see the landscape in front of us and make the most of it. And that’s when we’re at our best. That is what we do.”