Steve and Mary Ford have donated $2.5 million to Colby College earmarked for financial aid for students from Maine. Steve Ford is a Gardiner native and 1968 Colby alumnus who majored in government and became a lawyer for paper companies. Credit: Courtesy of Colby College | BDN

Gardiner native Steve Ford dipped into Colby College’s financial aid pool 50 years ago so he could graduate with a bachelor’s degree in government.

This week, he donated $2.5 million to his alma mater so other Maine students could also get a financial leg up at the Waterville college. The gift, announced April 19, adds to the $1 million he’s already donated to the college.

Ford earmarked the new money he donated to the general financial aid pool for students from Maine. They can apply for financial aid any year of college.

“Colby helped me financially so I was able to attend,” Ford, who graduated in 1968, said in a statement. “It was important to me that the college invested in me, so I want to give back.”

When Ford entered Colby, his tuition of $1,200, a princely sum in the 1960s, was paid by a foundation. Nowadays, tuition is $53,000.

Ford also worked at Colby to help pay his way. He recalled his time at Colby as one when the Vietnam War and protests were in full swing, and the men’s and women’s side of the campus were just starting to come together. His first year working in the cafeteria was the first year some women used the men’s cafeteria.

“I worked in the food serving line, made and served coffee and cleaned up the dining hall,” Ford told the Bangor Daily News.

During his last two years at Colby he made some money on the side officiating at football, soccer and lacrosse games at high schools and colleges in central Maine.

The gift is from Ford and his wife Mary Ford, who have contributed to the college for the past 37 consecutive years. Their son, Bill, graduated from Colby in 2005, and Steve’s father, William, graduated in 1926.

“We are especially grateful that this gift supports Colby’s commitment to the students from our home state of Maine,” Colby President David A. Greene said in a statement.

The Fords have been seasonal residents of Maine for nearly 40 years, and also have a home in Pennsylvania.

Steve Ford had a lifelong career as a corporate attorney, including 20-plus years with Scott Paper and S.D. Warren, working with their Maine operations and timberlands.

Colby offers about $6 million per year in financial aid to students from Maine, who make up about 10 percent of the student population. There are currently 211 Maine students at Colby, with 53 Mainers scheduled to graduate in May. Colby spokesperson Kate Carlisle could not say how many of those received financial aid specified for Maine students.

In December 2017, Colby expanded its financial aid program so that parents or guardians of students entering the college this fall and earning $60,000 or less would not be required to contribute anything to their educational expenses. The median income in Maine is about $58,000.

“Mainers may dismiss Bowdoin, Bates and Colby as too expensive, but they can go to those schools and come out without a tremendous amount of debt,” Ford said.

The class of 1968, celebrating its 50th Reunion in June, is currently breaking gift records with a total of nearly $16 million.

Steve Ford is a member of the class along with Portland real estate developer Joe Boulos, who with his wife Sheri Boulos also have focused on financial aid donations. They created the Boulos Family Scholarship program that has funded at least 310 Maine veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 with scholarships of $10,000 each.

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