Colby Receives $1.5M Gift to Support Key Initiatives in Arts and Athletics

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One of two O’Neil Family Wellness Studios in the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center. (Photo by Gregory Rec for Colby College)
By Laura Meader
Contact: George Sopko ([email protected]) 207-859-4346
March 24, 2021

Kate Lucier O’Neil ’85 and Ford E. O’Neil—a couple with a passion for enhancing the academic experience and life trajectories of Colby students—have made a $1.5-million gift to the College. In honor of their generosity, new spaces in the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center and the forthcoming Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts will carry the O’Neil name. 

Kate Lucier O'Neil '85 and Ford O'Neil
Kate Lucier O’Neil ’85 and Ford O’Neil

“The support Kate and Ford have demonstrated for Colby is deeply meaningful because they have spent their careers focused on thorough analysis of organizations’ strength and viability,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “They see how the return on these investments will be long-lasting and profound, allowing our students to create the very best lives for themselves at and beyond Colby.”

As a career investor, Kate O’Neil says that when it comes to giving, she is looking for the highest return on capital at an intersection between her family’s values and interests and the College’s vision for growth and impact. “The level of Colby’s progress makes these investment decisions a win-win,” she said. “It’s fulfilling for us, and it’s so impactful for the College.”

A Place to Recharge and Find Balance

The couple’s interest in student wellness and mental health, and the new Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center, inspired Kate and Ford O’Neil’s decision to focus some of their giving on the physical space where programming would take place. The O’Neil Family Wellness Studios support a wide variety of opportunities for the entire Colby community, strengthening the College’s health and wellness initiative.

The adjoining, flexible fitness studios overlook the aquatic center, have floor-to-ceiling windows with views of campus and an abundance of natural light. Wall mirrors and wall-mounted ballet bars, as well as audio and video capabilities, make the studios flexible for a variety of group exercise activities such as dance classes, yoga, and PiYo.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled with these studios,” Kate O’Neil said. “They are zen-like retreats where we hope many in the Colby community will benefit from making a mind-body connection and be able to recharge and prepare for their next challenge.”

Supporting Innovation and Collaboration

The Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, slated to open in fall 2023, will both foster creative collaboration across disciplines and provide vibrant spaces for innovation in the arts. Kate O’Neil was drawn to supporting the opportunities the Gordon Center will provide for student creativity and cross-disciplinary synergy. A signature music room with a grand piano and large corner windows will be named in their honor. 

Artist rendering of the forthcoming Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts
Artist rendering of the forthcoming Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, which will be situated on the south end of campus.

“It’s a beautiful room overlooking hiking and cross-country skiing trails on campus. It’s a place where students can go to either collaborate as a group or have a solo experience where they are working to hone a skill,” Kate O’Neil said. 

Honoring Family, Fostering Connections

With millions of dollars in support for Colby since her graduation in 1985, Kate O’Neil’s philanthropy has resulted in the naming of several spaces on campus. These include the O’Neil-Lucier Photography Studio in the Colby College Museum of Art and an economics seminar room in the Diamond Building, both given in honor of Kate O’Neil’s parents, Richard “Dick” G. Lucier ’60 and the late Helen “Penny” Martin Lucier ’60. At Colby, her parents formed enduring relationships with professors and classmates that left an impression on their daughter.

“They always spoke lovingly and fondly of their Colby days,” Kate O’Neil said of her parents, whose close Colby friends were like aunts and uncles to her. “It was clearly about the people and the community, and they would talk a lot about their professors and the relationships they had. So from a very young age, I was aware this was a very special place to them, and not just because they met here.” Kate O’Neil says she and her husband make gifts to Colby in recognition of her mother, who passed away in 1990, as well as to celebrate both her father’s ongoing appreciation of the school and her own gratitude. 

Kate O’Neil served as a Colby trustee from 2000 to 2006 and on the Board of Visitors from 1998 to 2002. Until 2014 she was a director in investor relations at Bain Capital, one of the world’s leading private, alternative asset management firms. Recently, she has focused more on her philanthropic interests and investment activities, including serving as a non-management director at Franklin Street Properties. Prior to joining Bain in 2012, she was a partner at FLAG Capital Management. 

Ford O’Neil has been employed at Fidelity Investments in Boston since 1990 where he is a portfolio manager. Fidelity has a long history of employing Colby graduates, with more than 100 Colby connections currently at the company. Although not a Colby alum, Ford has created many lasting Colby connections of his own. 

Broadening Perspectives, Developing Well-Rounded Professionals  

Through this latest investment, Kate and Ford O’Neil aim to contribute to Colby’s ability to prepare students to thrive professionally as happy, healthy, fulfilled individuals who make important contributions to society. “Colby attracts extremely intelligent, driven, and motivated students, and the College really challenges them,” said Kate O’Neil. “It’s a very intense and demanding academic program, and thus all the more important that students broaden their perspectives and learn skills to bring balance to their lives.”