FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington has received a $700,000 donation from a retired Portland teacher, which will be used to fund student scholarships.

It is the second-largest donation in the school’s history. 

The donation, made in late October, comes from T. Margaret Brown, a 1955 graduate of UMF who spent her career as a home economics teacher at Portland High School and King Middle School in Portland. 

Brown, who lived in Westbrook, died in May at 84 from congestive heart failure, leaving more than $700,000 in her will to the UMF Endowed Scholarship Fund and to establish another scholarship fund in her name.

“Everybody was pretty much surprised,” said Joanne Edwards, a friend of Brown and executor of her estate.

“She lived pretty frugally, but it does seem like she did well. Of course, she had investments and money set aside for health reasons, thinking she might need it. And then she didn’t, so it was there for Farmington.” 

Edwards, whose husband, Ron, taught with Brown at King Middle School, said the donation was a final act of kindness from someone who had spent much of her life looking out for those in need, especially children. 

Brown was born in Wiscasset and taught in Northeast Harbor, before spending most of her career as a middle and high school teacher in Portland and retiring in the 1990s, Edwards said. 

“She was very dedicated to teaching students,” she said. “She wanted to be sure they did things the right way, and was very dedicated.”

One of Brown’s passions was crafts, and she was always engaged in a project, whether making dolls for the children at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland or knitting hundreds of hats and mittens for needy children in the winter.

She was also committed to taking high school students from Portland High School to get free dental cleanings as part of a program at what was then Westbrook College and is now the University of New England, Edwards said. 

Brown never married and had no children. Her only surviving relative is a niece, Edwards said. 

“I think she always had a soft spot” for UMF,” Edwards said. “She enjoyed her years there and they prepared her, though she did also get a graduate degree from the University of Maine.

“I think she wanted to see that students that needed the money would be able to go to school.”  

A bulk of the donation will go to UMF’s endowed UMF Scholarship Fund, the income from which is used to provide scholarships for incoming or current UMF students.

A portion of the donation will also establish the T. Margaret Brown (Class of 1955) Scholarship Fund, which will be designated to support matriculated students from Wiscasset, Brown’s hometown.

The largest donation to UMF was a $5 million gift to the Emery Community Arts Center in June 2002 by an anonymous donor.

T. Margaret Brown, a 1955 graduate of the University of Maine at Farmington who spent her career as a home economics teacher, donated $700,000 to UMF. (Photo courtesy of UMF)

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