Last week, local news organizations reported that the University of Maine engineering department has received a $10 million anonymous gift. This donation is to go toward UMaine’s new Engineering Education and Design Center, which will cost an estimated $80 million overall. According to the Bangor Daily News, this $10 million gift is the largest donation by a living donor in UMaine’s history.
Planning for the engineering expansion has been a long time in the making. When University of Maine System (UMS) Chancellor James H. Page visited campus last October, he announced plans for the new building. He reported that UMaine had been granted $50 milion by the state legislature to expand the engineering department, which was half of the projected need. The engineering expansion is part of a larger plan for campus development — Chancellor Page and his staff identified a need for $600 million in repairs and updates, which will take place over the next decade.
The additional $50 million is not guaranteed funding, and requires debate within the Senate. Senate President Michael Thibodeau visited campus in November, and was impressed with the engineering department’s work on biodegradable cups.
While the Chancellor and his cabinet are working toward their own financial goal, UMaine has its own campaign, “Vision for Tomorrow,” which has its goal set at $200 million. This donation puts the campaign over $148 million, according to the University of Maine Foundation.
President Susan J. Hunter said in a news release that this donation reflects the success of the engineering department at UMaine, which has seen a 70 percent increase in enrollment since 2001. “The engineering education and design center with help the College of Engineering expand its capacity to help and meet student demand and Maine’s need for engineers,” Hunter said in the news release.
In 2016, the Portland Press Herald published an article detailing Maine’s shortage of engineers that said roughly 27 percent of Maine engineers are 55 or older, and when they retire, young people will need to fill those roles. The article stated that the UMS would only graduate about half of the engineers required to fill open positions in the next 10 years. The program expansion is designed to allow the university to accept more engineering students and close that gap.
According to MaineBiz, Maine will need over 3,000 new engineers between 2018 and 2027, with over half of those jobs replacing retired workers. The starting salary for an engineer in Maine is upwards of $60,000. Kevin McDonnell, director of engineering at Pratt and Whitney North Berwick Aero Systems, said in a news release that the University of Maine System has a long-standing record of providing well-educated engineers.
“Pratt and Whitney will continue to look to the Maine University System to provide us with the best and brightest engineers as we develop and build the next generation of gas turbine engines,” McDonnell said.
Work on the new engineering education and design center will not begin until 2020, and it is set to open in 2022.