The $95 million Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts at Colby College in Waterville recently opened. It was made possible in part by an ambitious fundraising campaign called Dare Northward. Photo courtesy of Colby College

WATERVILLE — Colby College has surpassed a goal of raising $750 million as part of a capital campaign to provide opportunities for students and position the college as a global leader in the liberal arts.

The goal for the campaign, called Dare Northward, now has been extended to raise $1 billion and it’s one of the most ambitious fundraising initiatives in the U.S. by a liberal arts college, according to Colby officials. While the campaign was initially scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, it’s now been extended to the end of 2027.

“Dare Northward has elevated Colby’s academic programs, provided unprecedented support and opportunities for our students, faculty and staff, dramatically expanded and improved our facilities and catalyzed a historic revitalization of our hometown, Waterville,” Colby President David A. Greene said in a news release.

Most colleges and universities have endowments for capital improvements, financial aid and the like. Asked Friday how the Dare Northward fundraising effort is different from that of an endowment, officials said in an email that Dare Northward is a capital campaign primarily focused on supporting very defined goals and impacts to support students, faculty, staff and the broader Waterville community.

“To that end, supporters of the campaign have helped the college launch new programs like Colby’s Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the Lyons Arts Lab, as well as build important new facilities such as the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts, the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center and the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, to name a few.”

Also, officials said, campaign contributions go toward initiatives that additionally are supported by the college’s endowment, including financial aid programs that remove student loans, as well as the Colby Commitment, which ensures students whose families earn $75,000 or less with typical assets have a parent or guardian contribution of zero.


Colby’s endowment for fiscal year 2022 was $1 billion, whereas Bowdoin College’s is about $2.5 billion and Harvard University’s is close to $50 billion. Colby’s endowment does not lie untouched, instead using millions each year on financial aid, faculty salaries and paying wages when the college closed during the pandemic, for instance.

The priorities for the next phase of the Dare Northward campaign include an expanded approach to educational and scholarly work in the sciences, continued investments in support of financial aid, and improved residential experiences and facilities.

Jane Powers, chair of Colby’s Board of Trustees, said the campaign launched in 2017 and there were 28,000 alumni, families and friends who contributed to it.

“We are so excited about the opportunities that will come from this extended campaign goal,” she said.

Since the campaign launch, progress has been made on a wide range of priorities, according to Colby officials, including establishing one of the most generous financial aid programs in the country, and supporting an initiative to create an arts ecosystem that helps drive economic activity in the area.

That ecosystem includes the Lunder Institute for American Art, Greene Block + Studios, Paul J. Schupf Art Center and the Gordon Center, which was the largest academic building project in Colby’s history. Also, the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center, billed by the college as the most advanced Division III college athletics facility in the country, also was was possible from Dare Northward, as is the revitalization of downtown Waterville. The total investment  from Colby and private and public funds has exceeded $200 million.

“By extending the Dare Northward campaign, we will be able to provide even more extraordinary opportunities for our students, faculty and staff and continue to become a true global leader in the liberal arts,” said Matt Proto, Colby’s vice president and chief institutional advancement officer.

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