Estate of George Stevens alum gives $5.9M to academy in Blue Hill

Posted April 06, 2010, at 9:08 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:45 a.m.

BLUE HILL, Maine — George Stevens Academy has received a $5.9 million bequest to its endowment fund from the estate of a former student.

The gift, from the estate of Jerold M. Hinckley, who graduated from the school in 1933, must be used only for the endowment fund to provide “for the permanent benefit of George Stevens Academy.”

The intent, according to Rob Clapp, chairman of the academy’s board of trustees, is that the principal amount of the gift remain intact to provide an annual income to the school to support and strengthen the students’ educational experiences.

“We are humbled and awed by Jerry Hinckley’s gift, and by the confidence that it reflects in the academy’s mission to educate our students for years to come,” Clapp said.

Hinckley’s estate also has provided a separate $150,000 gift to the school’s scholarship endowment fund, which will provide college scholarship aid to graduating seniors.

According to Clapp, the gift boosts the endowment fund from about $900,000 to $6.8 million, and it should generate — at a conservative estimate — between $180,000 and $200,000 in income annually. Although the full board and the finance committee still need to discuss how that income might be used, Clapp said, the addi-tional money provides a “safety net” for the school.

“As we look to the future, this takes some of the stress off,” he said, noting that, like most schools in Maine, GSA has felt the pressure of trying to maintain the quality of programs in the face of declining student enrollments.

“With the financial pressure eased somewhat, that enables us to continue to offer the kind of programs that we and our students desire,” Clapp said. “It provides a safety net for us as we work to offer those kinds of programs.”

The gift comes at a time when the school is preparing for its accreditation review, which will last into next spring, according to John Greene, head of school.

“What this gift does is allow us to plan more realistically — financially — for people, programs and facilities,” Greene said. “Planning is crucial for any school, and this gift allows us to have a firm foundation for that planning.”

According to Clapp, the gift from the Hinckley estate has met the goal for a part of the school’s $8 million capital campaign. The trustees had set a goal of raising $3 million for the endowment fund through the campaign, and the Hinckley bequest has allowed them to meet that goal with one donation.

He stressed, however, that the other goals of the campaign, including funding for professional development, academic initiatives and facility renovation still need to be met. The campaign will continue to rely on contributions to the GSA annual fund, he said.

Jerry Hinckley was born in 1915 in Blue Hill and graduated from what was then called Bluehill-George Stevens Academy in 1933, where he was an honor roll student, a three-sport athlete and class president for three years. He met his wife, Diana — “Di” — when they were students at the University of Maine in Orono.

A veteran of World War II, for which he earned an Oak Leaf and a Purple Heart, he operated the family business, Merrill & Hinckley, a grocery store, for years until he sold it to Bob Bannister in 1964. The business remains a fixture in downtown Blue Hill.

Hinckley served on the board of the Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, the Blue Hill Memorial Hospital and George Stevens Academy. Diana Hinckley worked at the Blue Hill Public Library for years and was a supporter of GSA in her own right.

Jerry Hinckley died in 1995; Diana Hinckley died in January.

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