Dear Colby Community,
From its founding in 1813, Colby College has been defined by moments of bold action rooted in its values. Early on, Colby students—and our distinguished alumnus Elijah Parish Lovejoy—fought the forces of slavery long before the Civil War. Colby admitted women in 1871, a century before its peers. In the 1950s we pioneered Jan Plan, an innovative program to enrich our students’ education; that same decade the Colby College Museum of Art, hailed as one of the finest college art museums in the country, came into being.
Tonight we marked another historic moment for Colby. Surrounded by students, alumni, parents, and friends, we have just launched a comprehensive fundraising campaign to ensure that our students and faculty have the resources they need to do their very best work in this century and beyond. We launched with a goal that is unprecedented among liberal arts colleges—$750 million. And we had the pleasure of sharing that to date, through the incredible generosity of members of this community who believe in this vision for a stronger Colby, more than 10,000 donors have stepped up with gifts of all sizes, including 32 commitments of $1 million or more, totaling a remarkable $383 million raised as of this evening’s public launch.
To put that into context, this is the largest campaign goal in liberal arts history. We launched a year ahead of schedule, after an abridged one-year leadership phase, because we saw such enthusiasm for what Colby is doing right now. We launched with more than half of our goal secured and with more than Colby raised in the previous campaign. In recognition of our aspirations for Colby, our focus on our values, the determination of our people, and our deep sense of place, we are calling this campaign Dare Northward. I invite you to learn more at darenorthward.colby.edu.
Colby’s momentum is remarkable, and the resolve of this community to continue to strive and aspire for even more greatness fuels me every day. We have developed a set of interconnected priorities that, together, will place Colby among the very best colleges in the world. Our central commitment is to creating a more dynamic and inclusive intellectual culture in which the most talented students from every background can not only attend but have full access to all of the resources of this great College. Our students, faculty, and staff will benefit from increased support for leading academic programs and facilities that are second to none. And Colby will be more connected to the world overall, through partnerships with renowned institutions, through our quest to guarantee universal internships, research, and global experiences to all students, and through our work to bridge Colby and Waterville, the city it proudly calls home.
In honor of our deep and abiding connection to Waterville, we launched this historic campaign downtown, at the beautiful Waterville Opera House. This was the site where, in 1930, city leaders handed Colby leaders the deed to Mayflower Hill after raising $107,000 to purchase the land for the College. We should always be grateful for Waterville’s efforts to keep Colby in this city, and I had the pleasure of announcing an incredible gift in support of our growing partnership. Trustee Bill Alfond ’72 and his wife, Joan Alfond, have made a remarkable commitment to Colby in support of the downtown student residential complex. To recognize their generosity, we will be naming the building in their honor.
This building marks a new era for Colby. With a new, robust civic engagement program and a vital downtown, Colby will once again be an integral part of the Waterville community. We are working closely with partners to develop a set of opportunities that will benefit our neighbors and our students in their academic pursuits, and the early signs are incredibly promising.
Dare Northward | Colby College from Colby College on Vimeo.
As we considered Colby’s most pressing needs, a center for arts and innovation rose to the top of the list, and, in fairness, it has long been on the list of highest priorities for the College. Building new spaces for performing arts as well as for creative expression and innovation of all types, across disciplinary boundaries, will provide our faculty and students with the tools they need to take their work in exciting new directions. It will also create a vibrant new cultural center on campus, allowing the performing arts to become a more integral part of our lived experience. This evening, I had the honor of announcing that Trustee Michael Gordon ’66 has made an incredible commitment toward a new center for arts and innovation that will make these important priorities a reality for us. We will be sharing more details about that soon.
As we consider Colby’s values and how we are crafting a campaign in support of them, we challenged ourselves to think deeply about how our values are expressed on campus every day. Tonight I shared the story of Sam Osborne, who was born into slavery in 1833, and his family. Sam traveled north to Maine following the Civil War, ultimately bringing his family to Waterville and being hired as the College’s sole janitor, a post he held for 37 years. During his time at Colby, he became a beloved figure, hosting students for Thanksgiving and speaking at every commencement.
Sam and Maria Osborne’s daughter Marion, who attended Waterville High School, became the first African-American woman to graduate from Colby, in 1900. She ultimately went on to graduate school and became a teacher herself. This remarkable family, who represents the very best of Colby and reminds us of our obligation to fight injustices, to clear the paths for others, and to respect the privilege of this place and all it affords us, deserves our recognition and lasting gratitude. That is why tonight I announced that the president’s house at Colby will forever be known as Osborne House. My family and I could not be prouder than to live in a house named for a family of such courage and integrity.
Colby is at a remarkable moment in its history. It is a singular honor to be leading this great College at this time.
David A. Greene