The Rev. Kyle L. Doustou poses for a portrait in the  Newman Center in Orono on Wednesday. The project to renovate the center received a $1.25 million anonymous donation propelling it forward. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

ORONO, Maine — A project to renovate the Newman Center that has been in the works for nearly four years will break ground next spring after an anonymous $1.25 million donation was made recently.  

The Newman Center and the parish it is attached to — The Parish of the Resurrection of the Lord — opened up a $3.5 million campaign in 2018, seeking donations to completely overhaul the building on College Avenue. The center has been a fixture at the University of Maine since 1946 and renovations are needed to better serve the community, the Rev. Kyle Doustou said Wednesday. 

“We see ourselves as giving back to the community. ‘A home away from home’ for our students is the primary goal,” he said. “But it’s also a place for them to ask questions to grow, to learn, to meet other people, to make lasting friendships.” 

The campaign had been hovering at close to $2 million, but a recent anonymous donation of $1.25 million will allow for the project to kick off in the spring of 2022, Doustou said. 

A University of Maine student works in one of the many features changing during a remodeling process of the Newman Center that is partially funded by a recent anonymous donation of $1.25 million. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

The project aims to create a more cohesive and separate meeting space from the worship area, as well as making that worship section ADA compliant. A bell tower and more spaces for students to use are also part of the design, Doustou said. 

Students flow in and out of the center, not just to worship, but to do homework, make food or even take a nap, and the renovations will allow for all that to continue happening and more, he said. 

The current building is a series of connected rectangles around an atrium, which Doustou said is one of his favorite features. But the roofs are largely flat and an atrium doesn’t do too well in a Maine winter, he said. 

“It’s an interesting building and it’s really of its time, but it would be more appropriate in Arizona,” Doustou said. “It’s just not built with Maine winters in mind, so we’re trying to mitigate some of that with this new build.”

The worship area of the Newman Center, seen here, is one of the many features changing during a remodeling process that is partially funded by a recent anonymous donation of $1.25 million. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

The renovations will try to use as much of the existing building as possible, but until the building is opened up, it’s unclear what will be salvageable. 

The project, which started in 2018, kicked off strong, but much like everything else when COVID-19 hit, donations tempered and now the impacts have shifted to fluctuating material costs, labor shortages and an unclear end date for the project, Doustou said. 

The first Newman Center was a log cabin that was across the street from the current one, which is nestled between university buildings and fraternity houses. 

The Newman Center has been a fixture on the University of Maine’s campus since 1946 and could soon see a remodeling process that is partially funded by a recent anonymous donation of $1.25 million. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Doustou said he has to constantly remind himself that his parish received such a gift for this project, but emphasized that this is by no means the end of the road. The $1.25 million donation brought the project to 60 percent funded, meaning there’s still money needed.

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...