MELIG recognized with the 2021 Weston L. Bonney Education Leadership Award for their leadership and commitment to Maine’s youngest learners

PORTLAND – On Friday, Dec. 10  Educate Maine presented its highest recognition – the Weston L. Bonney Education Leadership Award — to the Maine Early Learning Investment Group for their leadership and commitment to Maine’s youngest learners. The annual award honors an individual, group, organization, or Maine business that demonstrates leadership, commitment, and vision in ensuring that all Maine students have the opportunity to succeed. The award is named after Maine business, nonprofit, and education leader Weston L. “Wes” Bonney.

MELIG was created in 2012 by a group of Maine business leaders who recognized the need to stabilize Maine’s early learning systems to improve the quality of Maine’s workforce and decrease the costs of doing business in the state. Since 2012, MELIG has raised more than $1.6 million to support early learning, and has developed Elevate Maine/Somerset, a partnership with Kennebec Valley Community Action Program and Educare Central Maine, to provide an on-the-ground, birth-to-kindergarten-entry quality early care and education system in the greater Skowhegan area. The success of this pilot led to additional state funding for up to five additional early learning community partnerships across Maine.

“Educate Maine greatly appreciates MELIG’s vision and leadership in recognizing the value of supporting and investing in early childhood learning across Maine,” said Educate Maine Executive Director Jason Judd, Ed.D. “MELIG’s commitment to expanding access to high-quality early learning opportunities for all Maine kids is instrumental in helping to improve the healthy development of Maine’s youngest children, and to building stronger families, communities, and a more robust workforce and economy. It is our sincere pleasure to honor MELIG with this year’s Weston L. Bonney Education Leadership Award.”

Jim Clair, a founder and co-chair of MELIG and CEO of CSS Health, accepted the award on behalf of MELIG. Clair thanked Educate Maine, MELIG’s funders and members, past and current, and said, “It is an honor to be affiliated with Wes Bonney,” in accepting the award. Clair added, “As business people, we are a band of believers in quality education for all Maine students as it is good social and education policy, but also good economic policy. Employers need parents coming to work ready and engaged, and quality early childhood investments support a strong workforce. Our goal was to do something significant that would make a difference and create a replicable model. We leaned-in and did that with the Elevate Maine in Somerset County. That work in Somerset County continues, and will continue as early childhood intervention principles are distributed to children, parents, providers, and businesses statewide.”

The award was presented during Educate Maine’s annual education symposium, which each year brings together hundreds of educators, students, business and civic leaders, and policymakers from across Maine to share knowledge, innovative ideas, best practices, and timely strategies for helping all Maine people reach their highest educational potential. The virtual symposium took place as Educate Maine celebrates 10 years of increasing the educational attainment and career readiness of Maine people. The day-long symposium was held in partnership with the MELMAC Education Foundation, and was sponsored by General Dynamics – Bath Iron Works and other key corporate, higher education, and philanthropic partners.

Before retiring, Bonney was president and CEO of Peoples Heritage Financial Group (now TD Bank). He since has served as a volunteer consultant for several banks in Bulgaria, Romania, Mongolia, and Macedonia. He has a long history of public service to education including serving on the Maine State Board of Education, Muskie School of Public Service, Maine Coalition for Excellence in Education, Maine Development Foundation and John T. Gorman Foundation. At the core of his work is an unyielding demand for equity in education, and the belief that all students deserve the resources needed to allow them to succeed in school and in life.

MELIG joins more than 20 previous recipients of the Weston L. Bonney Education Leadership Award including U.S. Sen. Angus King; former Maine Department of Education Commissioners Jim Rier and J. Duke Albanese; Maine business leaders Peter Geiger and Timothy Hussey (posthumously); Cary Olson Cartwright of Unum and Wendy Ault of MELMAC; education leaders Marjorie Medd and James Carignan; several businesses and other organizations including Unum, Cianbro, Hannaford, Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, Great Schools Partnership, University of Maine System; numerous state legislators; and more.

Please click here to watch a brief video about the impact of MELIG’s early childhood learning efforts. Please click here for the Dec. 10 symposium’s full agenda.

Educate Maine champions career readiness by increasing the educational attainment of Maine people, enabling all students to succeed in postsecondary education and in the workplace. Landmark programs include the Maine Teacher of the Year program, Education Leaders Experience, Project>Login, and Maine Career Catalyst. More information is available at

Educate Maine is a founding member of MaineSpark, a coalition of education and business leaders working together to achieve a common goal: by 2025, 60 percent of Mainers will hold education and workforce credentials that position Maine and its families for success.