WATERVILLE — High school students from Waterville and Bangor who seek to enroll at Colby College will get first priority for financial assistance as part of a $7 million gift to the college from the George G. Petrikas Revocable Trust.

A 1956 Colby graduate with a bachelor’s degree in history, Petrikas died in 2019 at 85. He was a Maine native and Bangor High School graduate.

Petrikas was a member of the track team at Colby and maintained a lasting connection to the Waterville community, according to information from the college.

He served in the U.S. Army and for many years helped run his family’s restaurants: the Atlantic Sea Grill in Bangor and Park’s Diner, a 24-hour eatery housed in a railroad car at 176 Main St. in Waterville that was popular with Colby students and Waterville residents.

Matt Proto, Colby’s vice president and chief institutional advancement officer, said increasing access for Maine students, particularly those from local communities, is important to the college.

“Colby has a long history with and commitment to Waterville, central Maine and the broader state,” Proto said in an announcement issued by the college. “This gift allows us to continue to expand opportunities for great students in those areas to benefit from the distinctive elements of a Colby education.”

If no students from either of the two cities seek to enroll at Colby, the funds can be used to award financial aid to Maine students who graduate from high schools in Kennebec, Somerset or Penobscot counties, according to Colby officials. If no students from those counties are eligible, the aid would then be available to graduates of any Maine high school.

“We are so grateful to Mr. Petrikas for his commitment to providing greater opportunities to students from Maine to attend Colby,” said Randi Arsenault, the college’s assistant vice president of admissions and financial aid. “Gifts like this one not only highlight the profound impact Colby has on its community, but they further our efforts to enroll the most talented students from all backgrounds and create long-lasting benefits that extend well beyond campus.”

Colby has received more than $63 million to be used for financial aid since the college began its Dare Northward campaign in 2017. Donors have contributed more than $16 million to support Maine students alone, according to the college.

During this academic year, about $6.5 million in aid is being provided to Maine students, and those students receive about 12% of the college’s total financial assistance.

About 40% of Colby students receive some level of aid.

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