PRESQUE ISLE — As challenges go, the University of Maine at Presque Isle is looking at a pretty good problem to have.

With the announcement this week of a major private donation, campus administrators are asking how best to utilize 75 prime acres gifted to the university by Ray and Sandy Gauvin of Mapleton.

The parcel, located 10 minutes from the campus on State Street, includes woodland, a pond, a brook and Ray Gauvin’s modern, off-grid maple syrup camp, according to Marty Parsons, UMPI’s chief financial officer. He said the property has an appraised value of about $225,000.

“This property is really something,” Parsons said Friday. “Ray built that sugar lodge himself, and it is very well done, and all the maple syrup equipment is still there.”

The Gauvins put very few restrictions on their gift, other than that they would like to see any proceeds it might generate go toward needed renovations to the campus’ Wieden Auditorium.

But even that is not written in stone, according to Parsons.


“The flexibility they afforded us is fantastic,” he said. “If we can sell, we can put that money directly toward Wieden, or we can keep the land and use it as a living laboratory, and I will admit we are really intrigued by that.”

At the same time, Parsons said the 50-year-old auditorium is in dire need of major renovations including roof work, new seats, new flooring and other structural repairs.

A feasibility study indicates the entire project would run $3.3 million, Parsons said.

“Yes, it is pricey, but this space is extremely important to the community,” he said. “And the Gauvins recognize that, too.”

For Sandy Gauvin, the auditorium holds a special place in her heart.

A member of the Presque Isle Community Players, Gauvin remembers watching her own father perform on that very stage as part of the Presque Isle Lions variety show decades ago.


“I would watch my dad and, as a kid to see your dad on stage, he was not only a hero but a great actor,” she said. “I was so proud of him.”

Gauvin is a 1977 graduate of UMPI, and Ray Gauvin also attended classes there.

“So, the university and that auditorium loom large in our family,” Sandy Gauvin said. “We started thinking about that piece of property we had and thought giving it to the university could really work out.”

The Gauvins approached the university about two years ago with the offer, which was met with enthusiasm by campus officials.

“We are so pleased to receive such a generous gift from Ray and Sandy, who have supported the County in so many ways over the years, and (we) are delighted that this gift will help us to support our cultural arts efforts and academic programming for northern Maine,” UMPI President Linda Schott said. “Ray and Sandy are longtime supporters of higher education and patrons of the arts, so this is such a fitting gift.”

More than just a simple sugar shack, Ray Gauvin’s structure has electricity and other amenities powered by a modern solar array which, coupled with its proximity to UMPI and wild character, make it a perfect location for any number of academic pursuits, Parsons said.


“There is a pretty long list of possibilities,” he said. “The driveway is about a mile long, and from what Sandy and Ray have told me, every type of wildlife that is part of northern Maine is on that property. It is really a jewel from that perspective.”

Parsons envisions courses ranging from environmental studies to art taking place in connection with the property. He even envisions students tapping maple trees and producing syrup.

The Gauvins have owned the parcel close to 20 years, and according to Mapleton tax records, they paid $1,900 in property tax on it in 2014.

Regardless of how the property is used or to what degree it aids the auditorium renovations, Parsons said the decision already has been made to re-name the auditorium the Raynold and Sandra Gauvin Family Center for Cultural Arts in recognition of the gift.

“We have a real sense of giving back to this community,” Sandy Gauvin said. “We love Aroostook County, (and) it has been so good to us.”

Ray Gauvin is the founder of Advantage Payroll, which he began in 1967 to offer payroll and related accounting services to small and midsize businesses.


In 2013, the Gauvins founded the The Gauvin County Scholarship Fund, which awards $1,000 to a senior from each of the 16 Aroostook County high schools who elect to enroll in one of the county’s four institutions of higher education — the University of Maine at Fort Kent, University of Maine at Presque Isle, Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle and the Presque Isle campus of Husson University.

A retired teacher, Sandy Gauvin said Friday that she and her husband are happy to leave the final decision on the best use of the property to campus officials.

“Whatever they do is fine with us,” she said. “It’s great if they can sell it and use the money for the auditorium, but the teacher in me says it would be the most awesome place for learning laboratories.”

Whatever happens, Parsons said, it will not be done in haste, and there are plans to form a committee to weigh the options of selling the property outright or using it as a living laboratory.

“Working toward that decision is a good problem to have,” he said. “It’s one of those problems I’d welcome every day.”

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