BANGOR – A Massachusetts woman who apparently never visited Bangor Theological Seminary nonetheless left the 190-year-old institution $1 million.
The bequest will allow the seminary to increase by 25 percent the amount of scholarship money it awards students each year beginning this fall, according to President William Imes.
Florence Haynes of West Medford, Mass., left the money to the seminary in memory of her longtime pastor, the Rev. Gordon Washburn, who graduated in 1938 from the Bangor institution with a master of divinity degree.
“It’s a tremendous gift, and it will enable us to help 15 to 20 more students a year with some kind of money,” Imes said Tuesday. “This gift will help make it possible for them to graduate from the seminary with a little less debt.”
The seminary recently has awarded about $200,000 a year in scholarship funds to about half of the 170 students who attend each year. Tuition this year is $328 per credit hour, which means about $9,500 a year for a full-time student, according to Imes.
The gift is one of the largest the seminary has ever received, Imes said. The most recent large gift was in 1997 when former Maine Superior Court Justice David A. Nichols left the school $1.5 million. The money went into the school’s endowment.
Imes said that he learned of the bequest about two weeks ago, but decided to wait and announce it at the alumni dinner held Monday during the seminary’s annual convocation.
“When we got the word, we were all dancing in the aisles,” he said Tuesday, “but we decided to announce it at the dinner first because we got this money due to the pastoral care one of our graduates gave her. We thought we should celebrate that with other alums.”
The seminary Tuesday had only sketchy information about Haynes and Washburn.
Washburn served as pastor of the West Medford Congregational Church, the church Haynes attended most of her life, from 1947 to 1967, Imes said Tuesday. Haynes graduated from Radcliffe College with a degree in physics and worked at Harvard Medical School for many years.
She never married, and amassed an estate worth $10 million, Imes said. She also left money to three colleges, the church she attended for many years, a church camp in Massachusetts, and four friends, three of whom predeceased her.
Shortly before Washburn retired in 1967, the aging Haynes asked him to help her and a lawyer who attended the same church set up her estate. Haynes outlived her pastor by more than a decade, according to Imes.
Haynes was in her 90s when she died several years ago in a Boston area rest home. She had no living relatives.
“She had very few connections to people,” Imes said Tuesday, “but in death she made life better for a ton of people.”