AUGUSTA (AP) – Plans to build a Holocaust memorial and education center at the University of Maine at Augusta have received a major financial boost from the widow of a Holocaust survivor.

Phyllis Jalbert has given $500,000 to help the Holocaust Human Rights Center of Maine create the proposed Education Resource Center.

The gift puts organizers well on their way to raising the $1.5 million needed for the center, which would be built as an addition to the Bennett Katz Library on campus.

Roughly $900,000 has already been raised for the project, and official fund-raising hasn’t even begun, said Sharon Nichols, executive director of the Holocaust Human Rights Center of Maine.

The project would include a permanent historical exhibit depicting the Holocaust, a research room, classroom space that would also be available to the university, and office space for the Holocaust Human Rights Center of Maine.

Jalbert, who owns a real estate management firm in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jalbert Sporting Camps in the Allagash, said her late husband loved Maine. She sees the center as a place to honor him while also promoting human rights.

“It feels so right to do this,” the 57-year-old said from her Brooklyn office. “I wanted to do something meaningful in memory of my husband. It resonated for me.”

Jalbert’s late husband, Michael Klahr, survived World War II by hiding on a farm near Grenoble, France, after his mother was deported and his father was shot by Nazis in Voiron, France.

Following the war, Klahr came to the United States at age 9 and later became a successful real estate developer in New York. He died of cancer in 1998.

Nichols said the center would be built entirely with private money. The university’s only obligation would be maintenance, estimated at about $30,000 annually.

Charles Lyons, the university’s president, said he hopes to seek approval for the project from the University of Maine System Board of Trustees in September.

Nichols hopes to have enough money raised to break ground next year.

AP-ES-07-03-03 0216EDT

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