BY WALTER GRIFFIN
FOR THE MIDCOAST BEACON
BELFAST — The new wing of the University of Maine Hutchinson Center was named recently in honor of the grandfather of one of its largest benefactors.
The $4 million extension was named the Edward J. Walsh wing. Walsh was the grandfather of MBNA founder Charles Cawley and served as an early inspiration for Cawley’s commitment to education and community.
Cawley, now retired, and his wife, Julie, were given a standing ovation by the crowd when University of Maine President Robert A. Kennedy announced the surprise dedication.
“The Hutchinson Center has exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Kennedy beamed. “Even that statement is an enormous understatement of what has taken place over the past decade.”
Kennedy said Cawley’s grandfather operated businesses in Belfast and Camden years ago and that his visits with him provided his “earliest lessons” on community service. Kennedy said Cawley “saw the great potential” for higher education in the area when he built the center on MBNA land a decade ago. When MBNA merged with Bank of America eight years later, the center was given to the university outright.
“His impact is immeasurable,” Kennedy said of Cawley. “Mr. Walsh wrote the first chapter of this incredible story,” he said of the dedication. “It is a reflection of our appreciation for Charley and Mr. Walsh.”
Former university president Frederick Hutchinson, an avowed supporter of an education center for Belfast from the beginning, attended the dedication at the center that bears his name.
The 15,000-square-foot expansion doubled the size of the center and has added space for a New Media Center, science labs and space for art classes. Fully equipped laboratories will allow the center to offer nursing programs and will enable the teaching of undergraduate science requirements such as pre-med and pre-engineering.
Support for the project came in the shape of a $2 million commitment from the university in the form of a revenue bond and $2 million donations from the local community. Unity Foundation and Waldo County Health Care made large contributions to the expansion project along with donations from more than 300 individuals. Expansion Campaign directors Judy Stein and Jim Patterson and their committee were given special recognition during the ceremony. The original facility opened Oct. 5, 2000.
“We are so delighted this day is here,” Center Director Sue McCullough told the crowd of 300. “Because you believed in us we were able to move mountains and build a beautiful new building.”
Robert White, associate provost and dean of the university’s division of lifelong learning, described the accomplishment as a “grand slam home run.” He said the center continues to expand in popularity during a time when many educational institutions are slowing growth. White said more than 1,000 students registered for the fall term, a figure 41 percent higher than the previous year.
The center offers more than 500 day and evening programs and weekend programs, as well as distance education classes over the Internet and video conferencing and interactive television.
“The Hutchinson Center is fulfilling the hopes and dreams of thousands of midcoast residents,” White said. “Its programs will continue to transform lives.”