Bates receives its largest donation ever

Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, has received its largest single donation, a $50 million gift.
David Goldman/Associated Press/File 2017
Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, has received its largest single donation, a $50 million gift.

Bates College has received a $50 million donation, which it says is the single largest gift in its history and among the largest ever given to a college in Maine.

Bates officials said the donation will be used to create a new facility for the study of science, engineering, and technology on the campus in Lewiston.

The donation is a boon for Bates, which has the smallest endowment of its 11 peer schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, a group that includes Wesleyan, Williams, and Amherst.


Founded in 1855, Bates originally had a reputation as a training ground for “preachers and teachers” — professions that don’t typically create wealthy alumni benefactors.

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The donation was made by Michael Bonney, the former chief executive of Cubist Pharmaceuticals in Lexington, Mass., and his wife, Alison Grott Bonney. Both are graduates of the class of 1980 and met during their freshman year.

“We hope people think, ‘Wow. There’s something special about Bates College, and I want to be a part of it,’ ” Michael Bonney, who is also chairman of Bates’s board of trustees, said in an interview released by the college.

The donation, Bates officials said, appears to be the largest cash-only gift to any Maine college.

It is smaller, however, than the gift worth more than $100 million that Colby received last year from Peter and Paula Lunder. That gift included nearly 1,150 artworks and funds to establish the Lunder Institute for American Art on Colby’s campus in Waterville.


Bates officials announced the Bonneys’ donation at an event Tuesday at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where the college kicked off a five-year, $300 million fund-raising campaign.

Bates officials said the campaign aims to bolster academic programs and financial aid and add to the college’s endowment of $251 million.

Michael Levenson can be reached at