Members of the Edward Little Class of 1951 are presented Wednesday with a large ceremonial check in celebration of their $400,000 donation to the construction of the new Edward Little High School. From left are School Committee representatives Patricia Gautier and Pamela Hart, and Class of 1951 alums Barbara Hurley Bouchard, Shirley Bubier Hatch, Joan L. Morin, Woody Hodgkin, Malcolm Philbrook and Bob Gardner. Vanessa Paollella/Sun Journal

AUBURN — More than 70 years after graduating from Edward Little High School, the Class of 1951 has given one of the largest donations in school history to their alma mater.

On Wednesday, the School Committee accepted a $400,000 donation from the Class of 1951 in exchange for the naming rights to the new school auditorium. It will be known as the Donald Gay Performing Arts Center.

“He was the greatest man I’ve ever known,” Joan L. Morin, a member of the Class of 1951, said.

Other former students described him as fair and charismatic.

When Gay put his baton down on the music stand, students knew they had done something wrong, recalled Woody Hodgkin, also a member of the class. “We’d beg him to come back.”

For 15 years in the 1940s and ’50s, Gay was the music director at Edward Little High School. He is the man who once “put Auburn on the music map of the world,” according to the Lewiston Journal Magazine Section.


Gay was so revered by the community that when he left Edward Little in 1959, it took more than two full pages for the paper to extol his legacy.

In 2001, the Class of 1951 started a scholarship fund in his name and have since given more than $100,000 to 21 students who made outstanding contributions to Edward Little’s fine arts programs.

“He was a man that they revered, and he was a big part of their experience at Edward Little,” said Ward 2 School Committee representative Pamela Hart. “It’s just fascinating to me how they had the foresight to do this.”

Originally, the School Committee aimed to give the naming rights to the auditorium in exchange for a $1 million donation, according to Hart. That amount was lowered to $500,000, then $400,000 to make it possible for the Class of 1951 to name it after Gay.

It was Malcom Philbrook’s idea to donate their entire scholarship fund to the school in the hopes of receiving the naming rights to the auditorium.

“I did not think it could happen,” classmate Bob Gardner said. “Even as excited as I was about it, by God, it happened.”


The 1,200-seat auditorium with balcony seating will be the third largest in the state, according to Edward Little band director William Buzza.

The $400,000 donation is the total the class has collected for its scholarship fund. Due to their age, members of the Class of 1951 have chosen to discontinue the fund.

The scholarship fund was built through donations ranging from $25 to $2,000 from members of the Class of 1951 and other Edward Little alums. At reunions, members of the Class of 1951 pledged an annual donation, and Gardner would remind them each year if they forgot.

Hart’s daughter was one of the students who received their scholarship. The $8,000 scholarship was the largest of any her daughter received.

“I’m so floored. I’m always floored by people who are just so altruistic and who really have the foresight to think of others,” Hart said. “I’m so glad this worked out.”

“These people were true Red Eddies,” she said, referring to the nickname of students past and present.

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