Acadia Senior College began as a community project to provide "intellectual stimulation, practical knowledge, social interaction and fun" for older persons in the Mount Desert Island Region. After exploratory work in the fall of 1999, the idea of starting a senior college was presented in two well-attended public meetings held at the Somesville Fire House in February of 2000. More than 100 residents of Mount Desert Island and mainland towns, enthusiastically participated. The response exhibited the wide range of talent in the area, and that these people were willing and anxious to share their knowledge, skills, and experience.
In the spring of 2000, ASC was formally organized under the sponsorship of the University College Ellsworth, which gave ASC crucial professional services (registrar, financial accounting, mentoring, and an office) in exchange for a percentage of revenues. During this period initial funds for an eventual endowment were raised from the community, a start-up grant was awarded by the Maine Community Foundation, and a group of volunteers created a curriculum of courses, lectures, and excursions for a "pilot" semester in the fall.
Favorable publicity, including a front page story "above the fold" in the Bangor Daily News, attracted additional faculty and students so that by the end of the first fiscal year in June 2001, there were 282 enrollments in the 27 courses offered during the three sessions—fall, winter and spring. Also, two lecture series and several excursions were held as experiments. ASC enjoyed these immediate fiscal and programming successes because teaching and administration were almost entirely carried out by volunteers, fees were adequate, and space for classes was provided gratis by nine local non-profit organizations, known as the ASC "site partners." In subsequent years, non-profit site partners have received a modest annual cash gift from ASC.
Achievements & Challenges
The achievements of a growing operating surplus, a modest flow of donations, and a steady level of programs continued for three more years. By June of 2004, the endowment was nearing $10,000, and membership grew to more than 250 from the initial 110 who had joined in 2000. Also in these four years, ASC had offered 99 courses with an enrollment of 1,377 students. Recognition of ASC's success came from the United Way of Eastern Maine and WLBZ in their "2 Those Who Care" community service award, which ASC President, James Clunan, received in October 2004.
However, the demands of recruitment, labor-intensive attention to members' needs, and the necessity of frequent travel to Ellsworth were eroding the founders' stamina and volunteer availability. The logistically complex excursions program was suspended; lectures and special events were reduced in number so that effort could be focused on fewer high quality events, e.g., the "Fog of War" film discussion, the collaboration with the Camden Conference, and the foreign policy address by Zbigniew Brzezinski in 2004.
Energy in the 2004 - 2005 fiscal year went into expanding the faculty in order to sustain a program of 36 courses per year, relocating the ASC headquarters to the campus of the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, establishing ASC as an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and hiring a professional office administrator. For the latter purpose, the Board of Directors launched an annual appeal, which in its first year brought in an amount sufficient to fund the yearly salary and benefits of one part-time individual.
In 2012 our office moved to the second floor of the Maine Sea Coast Mission building, 127 West Street, Bar Harbor. A part-time bookkeeper was hired to help manage finances in 2014. In 2015 we launched an annual summer collabortive lecture series with College of the Atlantic. ASC and COA have drawn on a resource of MDI residents, summer residents and visitors to fill the week's schedule with knowledgable speakers on diverse subjects of interest. Key note speakers have been Senator George Mitchell (2015), and singer - songwriter, Noel Paul Stookey (2016), Lucas St. Clair (2017), and Harvard University Political Economy Professor David Ellwood (2018).