Major Gift Supports Colby’s Civic Engagement Initiative

Announcements3 MIN READ
By Laura Meader
January 30, 2020

To further integrate civic engagement into the curriculum and community, Colby College has received a major campaign commitment that will endow the College’s director of civic engagement and community partnerships position. The endowment, which will create the Lawry Family Director of Civic Engagement and Community Partnerships, is made possible through the generosity of Colby Trustee Seth Lawry and Cynthia Lawry.

The Lawry Family Foundation’s gift will support one of Colby’s most important initiatives—increasing civic engagement activities to positively and collectively impact the Colby and Central Maine communities. The endowment, which is in perpetuity, allows Colby to continue to elevate its leading civic engagement work that’s rooted in the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, home of the Chace Community Forum, in downtown Waterville and is part of the College’s effort to create meaningful connections between Mayflower Hill and the community.

“The Lawry’s gift is so important because it permanently ensures Colby’s ability to build and support a vibrant civic engagement program,” said President David A. Greene. “We are truly grateful to Seth and Cindy for their generosity and vision and are inspired by their work to carry on their family’s legacy of civic engagement in Maine. While Seth grew up in Waterville, neither Seth nor Cindy attended Colby, and so their special commitment to the College and our community is exceptional.”

A very important part of Colby’s partnership with Waterville includes stronger connections with area nonprofit organizations, local government, and public schools. This has resulted in student involvement with a wide range of local activities, including 27,000 hours of civic work in Waterville in 2018-19 alone.

“We are deeply thankful for David’s relentless energy and consistent follow-through in committing significant human and capital resources to the area,” said Cindy and Seth Lawry. “We are excited that this gift can help Colby continue developing meaningful partnerships in the region. The College’s relationship with Central Maine is so important for both communities. We hope this endowment enhances opportunities for students and community members to come together in ways that enrich the lives of both.”

The Lawry family has a legacy of civic engagement with Colby and in Maine. Seth’s late father, William “Bill” Lawry, grew up in Fairfield, ran a successful business, and served three terms in the Maine State legislature. Bill and his wife, Muriel, were deeply involved in many local organizations and activities over their 60 years together in the area. Additionally, Seth’s family has a long history in Maine and with Colby. His family has lived in Central Maine for generations, dating back to the end of the American Revolution. A number of ancestors, including William and Francis Heath (Classes of 1855 and 1857), graduated from Waterville College, Colby’s founding name. In 1958 Seth’s great-uncle Francis Heath, Colby Class of 1917, established the M.S. Heath Scholarship Fund.

A New Director and Model

Elizabeth Jabar, who currently serves as the director of civic engagement and community partnerships at Colby, will be the inaugural Lawry Family Director of Civic Engagement and Community Partnerships. “This wonderful gift is helping to continue the exciting momentum taking place at the College in terms of enhancing and building community partnerships, and I’m truly honored and grateful to be the first endowed director of this important office.”

The endowment for the Lawry Family Director of Civic Engagement and Community Partnerships also builds on recent support for Colby’s civic engagement model. In November 2019, Colby announced the creation of the O’Hanian-Szostak Fellows for Civic Leadership – made possible through the generosity of Trustee Emerita Anne O’Hanian Szostak ’72 and Michael J. Szostak ’72 – and a number of other developments related to Colby’s civic engagement initiative are expected in the near future.

Colby’s model of making civic engagement a central part of the liberal arts education as well as the student experience, and creating specific civic engagement goals and requirements for students living in the heart of a community, is unique. “It’s a very different approach that other institutions are now starting to look at as they consider their own programs,” commented Jabar.