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Made in honor of longtime John T. Gorman Foundation board member Weston Bonney, the grant will fund scholarships and programming for an annual cohort of Mitchell Scholars who have overcome extraordinarily challenging circumstances.
The Mitchell Institute, a nonprofit scholarship organization founded by Senator George J. Mitchell to improve college outcomes for students from every community in Maine, has received a $500,000 grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation to support the Institute’s ongoing and highly successful Promise Scholars program.
The Foundation has made the grant to the Mitchell Institute in tribute to Weston Bonney (pictured) for his long service to the Foundation and the people of Maine and in recognition of his personal passion to increase and improve educational opportunities for Maine students. Bonney, who grew up on a farm in Turner, Maine, and served in the Navy during WWII, graduated from Bates College. With the support of his wife, Elaine, a long and distinguished career in the financial sector followed, as he held leadership positions at banks throughout Maine and New England. In 1990, Bonney retired as CEO of People’s Heritage, which was the largest bank in Maine at the time.
The students supported by the John T. Gorman Foundation’s grant to the Mitchell Institute will be named the Wes Bonney Promise Scholars.
“We have been incredibly fortunate to have had Wes serve on the board for 27 years,” said John T. Gorman Foundation Chairman Shawn Gorman. “Given Wes’ longstanding service and commitment to increasing educational opportunities for Maine youth, we cannot think of a better way to honor him than providing this gift to the Mitchell Institute’s Promise Scholars program.”
Education remains a special passion for Bonney, who is 97. Among other roles, he served as a longtime Bates College Trustee, was a founding member of the Maine Coalition for Excellence in Education (which would later become Educate Maine), and, as a member of the Maine State Board of Education, led the development of a pioneering state education funding formula built around individual students’ needs. Bonney also tutored and mentored youth and provided scholarships to Bates students. Throughout, Bonney said he enjoyed the challenge of working to increase student success at all levels of Maine’s education system. He also found it deeply inspiring.
“It’s encouraging to see these young people who are so bright. They’ll be able to solve a lot of problems,” he said. “It just gives me hope.”
This is especially true of the Mitchell Institute Promise Scholars Bonney has been able to meet. They have been able to overcome significant challenges — including being unhoused, in foster care, or coping with family instability — to succeed in college and beyond with the wraparound supports the Mitchell Institute has offered in partnership with the Foundation since 2014.
“The Promise Scholar program has made it possible for the Mitchell Institute to extend — and enhance— its signature support programs to a number of Maine’s high school graduates who have shown remarkable resilience in the face of circumstances beyond their control,” said Mitchell Institute President and CEO Jared Cash. “We are especially pleased that going forward, the Promise Scholars supported by this grant will be named Wes Bonney Promise Scholars. It is a true honor for the Mitchell Institute and the Scholars to be associated with Wes’ legacy and values.”
To have his name on the program “means to the world to me,” Bonney said. “It’s such an uplifting experience to get to support some of these young people who are going to make our future history.”