Helping Students to Afford to Attend UMaine

Why would a couple from Berkley, California who did not attend the University of Maine create a $3.4 million scholarship for Maine’s neediest students?

Durant Sheffield and his eight sisters all attended school in Thomaston, Maine. Their mother, Wilma T. Sheffield, was a homemaker and their father, Henry F. Sheffield, worked at the cement plant. When Durant graduated from Thomaston High School at the age of 17, attending the University of Maine was not an option for him. He joined the U.S. Army and when his enlistment ended, he attended the University of Connecticut with the help of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the G.I. Bill.

With an electrical engineering degree, he spent his entire professional career with General Electric as a Project Engineer working all over the world on energy generating projects. He met his wife, Fumiko, in New Mexico and they settled in California.

He always regretted that he had not been able to attend UMaine right out of high school.

As Durant and Fumiko began their retirement, they and their advisor turned to the University of Maine Foundation for help with their one and only charitable goal – helping Maine students who could not afford to attend UMaine. Because he was so grateful for the difference that the G.I. Bill made in his life, Durant wanted to replicate that impact by creating an endowment that would someday provide full scholarships for Maine’s neediest students.

Durant and Fumiko created a charitable remainder annuity trust in 2004 that provided a steady income to them for their lifetimes, with the remainder to be endowed to provide as many full scholarships to UMaine as possible in perpetuity. At the same time, they included the University of Maine Foundation in their wills to further augment their endowed scholarship fund.

Durant believed that the best engineers never hesitate to say, “I don’t know.” He appreciated the University of Maine Foundation’s role in working with their attorney to assure a generous life income and the ultimate establishment of the scholarship he had been hoping to create throughout his career. Sadly, Durant and Fumiko passed away in 2018. Because of their generosity, fewer students will have to face an inability to attend UMaine because of finances. Durant and Fumiko’s legacy of helping Maine students will forever be an incredible testament to their success and to their love for the state of Maine.