Loyal Benefactors, Dan ’63 and Betty Churchill, Announce $6.5 Million Bequest Expectancy at University of Maine Foundation Event

At a recent University of Maine Foundation virtual Homecoming event, University of Maine benefactors Dan ’63 and Betty Churchill shared their intentions to make estate gifts estimated at up to $6.5 million to benefit the University of Maine. 

Their gifts will endow two $1.5 million School of Policy and International Affairs (SPIA) professorships, one Climate Change Institute (CCI) post-doctoral position or professorship, a SPIA faculty research fund, with additional funding for multiple SPIA internships and fellowships, along with a CCI student/faculty travel fund.  

“We are very pleased to celebrate this gift with Dan and Betty. This will be one of the top five individual gifts UMaine has ever received. We are honored to be asked to steward their legacy,” said Foundation President Jeffery Mills. 

Dan also shared his thoughts about legacy giving: “Get in contact with the University, think through what it is you want to do, work with the faculty, get to know what would be effective for the University and what corresponds with things you are truly interested in. Then get involved before it becomes a legacy, get involved while you’re still above ground because that’s where the fun is. Get in, get started and involved in some way.”

Along with that announcement, the Churchills’ latest philanthropic support for the University of Maine has provided $300,000 to fund a School of Policy and International Affairs (SPIA) faculty position focused on climate change policy. This joint position with the Department of Political Science, will begin to establish SPIA as a leader in graduate education on climate change policy in an international context and is expected to be filled for a fall 2021 start. 

Dan sees how the accomplishments and reputation of CCI, together with the achievements of SPIA, provide a firm basis from which to extend the University of Maine’s stature and visibility in climate change policy — a field essential for the future of all. “Among the reasons that the University of Maine is a place that we really enjoy supporting, in addition to their extremely efficient use of funds, is that it’s filled with outstanding faculty who work together in a very collaborative fashion that exemplifies the values of Mainers, and so it’s a real pleasure to be part of this organization. Furthermore, we have met and become friends with students who are not only excellent academically, but are also truly fine human beings. The greatest reward is found in seeing what these students can do with a fine education and what they can contribute to society,” shared Dan in announcing their commitment. 

Throughout the last academic year, Dan and Betty worked with UMaine Foundation Philanthropy Officer Matt Mullen to document these estate plans, in consultation with SPIA Director Jim Settele, CCI Director Paul Mayewski, and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Emily Haddad. 

“These gifts exemplify the Churchills’ vision for the University of Maine as a leading institution in the advancement of science; in the preparation of exceptionally capable graduates; in the creation of productive, life-long relationships between students and mentors; and in opportunity for international experience and transnational understanding,” said Haddad. 

Dan earned a B.S. in engineering physics from the University of Maine in 1963 and was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. He later completed graduate work at Boston University, receiving an M.S. in 1971 and M.B.A. in 1972. 

Betty Richardson Churchill is a 1958 graduate of Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Dickinson and UMaine have become connected through Betty’s commitment to Dickinson, Dan’s commitment to UMaine, and their joint dedication to higher education.

Dan and Betty traveled extensively and for years lived abroad and worked in public service and the private sector, as Dan pursued a very successful career in international finance and Betty achieved success in the CIA and the United States Air Force.  

They found that these experiences altered their lives and were of great value. “We believe that it is critically important for citizens of any country to be well and broadly educated. An international perspective is absolutely necessary for young people, and especially future leaders, to grasp the problems of our deeply interconnected world. Only from such understanding can solutions emerge that truly address the needs of the community of nations. We see how vital it is that future leaders are familiar with both the scientific facts and the cultural contexts that frame today’s massive global problems–climate change first among them.” stated the Churchills about their motivation.

As Paul Mayewski notes, “The Climate Change Institute has benefited from Dan and Betty Churchill’s presence since 2005 in so many remarkable ways. They have opened the way for exploration for many of our graduate students. They have shared their experiences in industry, government and their respect and love for looking forward and into new places. They have accompanied us during some of our expeditions to remote reaches of the Earth and they have helped us to move climate science into the policy arena. Now they are providing even more opportunities for the Institute to remain in the forefront of discovery and in charting pathways forward for the constantly emerging challenges posed by climate change.”

The Churchills live in Washington, D.C. and are members of the Royal Geographical Society and the World Affairs Councils. Dan also serves on the University of Maine  Board of Visitors.

Background on the Churchill’s philanthropic relationship with UMaine:

The Churchills’ UMaine philanthropic interests have focused on graduate study in two units: the Climate Change Institute (CCI) and the School of Policy and International Affairs (SPIA). 

Fifteen years ago, in 2005, they launched the Churchill Exploration Fund, which covers expenses for CCI graduate students to conduct research in field sites far from Maine — from Pamir to Peru, Antarctica to Asia. 

In 2009, the Churchills began funding the Churchill Internship to help SPIA students gain professional experience with organizations as varied as Somali refugee camps in Kenya, Mercy Corps in Timor-Leste, the United Nations in New York City, and the African Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C., among others.   

Dan has come to know many students and takes a deep interest in their research endeavors and internships. In 2007, he traveled with anthropology professor Dan Sandweiss and a group of undergraduate and graduate students to the north coast of Peru. In 2009, Dan and Betty traveled to Antarctica with Paul Mayewski, director of the CCI. Dan also has traveled with SPIA to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, in 2008 and 2012 for conferences co-hosted by SPIA and the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research. 

Dan chairs the SPIA Board of Advisors. In this role, he is a spokesperson for the value of international education and a strong and effective advocate for students. He even stays in touch with them after they graduate and continues to mentor SPIA alumni and students.

The UMaine Graduate School recognized the Churchills’ commitment to graduate education and research by making them the first inductees into the George Davis Chase Society, in 2012. Dr. Chase was the first dean of the Graduate School at UMaine (1923–1938), and the award in his honor recognizes individuals who are not students or university employees and who have made “significant contributions to graduate studies at UMaine.” 

In 2014, the CCI recognized Dan and Betty Churchill by establishing a new award in their honor — the Churchill Award for Outstanding Exploration. This annual award is made on a competitive basis to graduate students whose research has been supported by the Churchill Fund and presented at the Borns Symposium.