Robert Buchanan, seen in 2002 at the opening of the Buchanan Alumni Center at the University of Maine in Orono. Credit: Courtesy of University of Maine Alumni Association

Robert Buchanan, a University of Maine alumnus who was a longtime benefactor of the school as a graduate of the famed Class of 1944, has died at the age of 99.

UMaine announced Buchanan’s passing on Friday, noting that he died on Aug. 11 at his home in Pueblo, Colorado.

Buchanan is the namesake for UMaine’s Buchanan Alumni House, a center for conferences, lectures and events facing Orono’s College Avenue that Buchanan was instrumental in developing. It opened in 2002, and was funded entirely by money raised by the University of Maine Foundation and the UMaine Alumni Association, including a $1 million gift from Buchanan, pledged in 1999.

Buchanan was born in 1922, and was raised in Caribou, graduating from Caribou High School in 1939. He attended the University of Maine, and graduated in 1944 with a degree in zoology.

“I enjoyed every minute of it,” Buchanan said of his experience at the state’s flagship campus, when his gift to help create the alumni center was announced in 1999. “Being from Caribou, I have a special place in my heart for Maine and the university in particular. I’m happy to be able to do this.”

UMaine’s Class of 1944 is responsible for many initiatives and new buildings on campus, including the Class of 1944 Hall, which houses UMaine’s School of Performing Arts, and the revamped Bear’s Den in the Memorial Union.

After UMaine, Buchanan attended the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston, graduating in 1946. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he spent the next decade, achieving the rank of Major. His many posts included practicing dentistry at a prison camp in the Philippines and leading a mobile dental unit near a combat zone in South Korea.

Upon his retirement from the military, he established a private dental practice in Whittier, California, and was a clinical professor of operative dentistry at the University of Southern California. He gave generously to other charities and causes in Maine and elsewhere.

“More than any single individual, Dr. Buchanan made the construction of Buchanan Alumni House possible,” said Jeffery Mills, president and CEO of the University of Maine Foundation, and Buchanan’s longtime friend. “He was passionate about the project and its value as ‘a place to call home’ for students, alumni and the community. One of the greatest joys I’ve had in life was working with him on the creation of Buchanan Alumni House, as well as maintaining a close relationship with him for more than 25 years.”

Until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Buchanan returned to the Orono campus every May to celebrate his birthday and meet with students at the Memorial Union and the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, where he lived during his undergraduate years, said John Diamond, president and CEO of the UMaine Alumni Association.

“Dr. Buchanan loved UMaine as much as anyone could,” Diamond said. “The walls of his home in Pueblo were filled with artwork and mementos related to the university.”

Buchanan is survived by his children, stepchildren and grandchildren.

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.