Thelma Cowey Swain (November 22, 1908 – April 19, 2008)[1] was an American philanthropist. She contributed significant funds to non-profit organizations in Maine and also established scholarships at Middlebury College, Tufts University, and at each of the seven colleges of the Maine Community College System. In 2010 her estate bequeathed $1 million to The Foundation for Maine's Community Colleges. She was posthumously inducted into the Maine Women's Hall of Fame in 2010.

Thelma C. Swain
Thelma C. Swain.jpg
Swain in 2006
Thelma M. Cowey

November 22, 1908
DiedApril 19, 2008(2008-04-19) (aged 99)
NationalityUnited States
Alma materTufts University
Years active1993–2008
Spouse(s)Vernon T. Swain
Parent(s)Stephen R. Cowey
Bessie Kirkwood Cowey
AwardsMaine Women's Hall of Fame (2010)

Early life and marriageEdit

She was born Thelma M. Cowey[2] in Chelsea, Maine, the daughter of Stephen R. Cowey and Bessie Kirkwood Cowey. She was an only child.[1] During her youth her family moved numerous times as her father worked as the head gardener on estates in Walpole and Nashua, New Hampshire; Norfolk, Virginia; and York Harbor, Maine. She graduated from York High School in 1927 and earned an undergraduate degree at Tufts University in 1931.[1]

Following graduation, she worked for the Public Service Company of New Hampshire in Nashua as an appliance service representative. In January 1938[2] she married Vernon T. Swain and relocated to Waterville, Maine; in 1949 they moved to Augusta. She assisted her husband in his home-based electrical engineering consulting firm, and also was a co-owner of an antique shop. Her husband died in 1993 after 55 years of marriage. They had one daughter.[1]


After her husband's death, Swain dedicated herself to philanthropy. She contributed significant funds to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland Arboretum, Pine Tree State Arboretum, and the Pine Tree Society camp.[1][3][4] She established a college scholarship for students in the Teen Parent School Program at the Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers.[5] She also volunteered weekly at the Maine State Museum in Augusta[1] and supported the Norlands Living History Center in Livermore; in 2000 she donated "cotton sheets and sewing notions" to the living history museum.[6]

Swain endowed several scholarships benefiting Maine students at Middlebury College in Vermont and Tufts University in Massachusetts.[1][7] She also supported the seven colleges in the Maine Community College System, donating nearly $2 million between 1995 and 2010.[8] She endowed the Thelma C. Swain Scholarship at each of the seven colleges, which is awarded to students in the nursing, residential construction, plumbing, or heating programs;[9][10] and the Lloyd Duncan Scholarship, established in 1996 at Northern Maine Community College, benefiting seniors in electrical or electronics programs.[9] In 2000 she was honored as Benefactor of the Year for New England by the Council for Resource Development in recognition of her support for Central Maine Community College and the Maine Technical College System.[11][12] The latter system appointed her an honorary trustee emerita in 2001.[12] In 2010, her estate made a bequest of $1 million to The Foundation for Maine's Community Colleges.[13][14]

Final years and legacyEdit

In 2000 she moved to the Granite Hill Estates in Hallowell, Maine. She died on April 19, 2008 at the age of 99.[1]

In 2008 the Norlands Living History Center inaugurated the Thelma Swain Award for Youth Leadership in Fundraising in her honor.[15] She was posthumously inducted into the Maine Women's Hall of Fame in 2010.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Thelma C. Swain Obituary". Bangor Daily News. April 22, 2008. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Maine Marriages, 1892–1966, 1977–1996". Maine Genealogy. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  3. ^ "Local residents and business honored with fifth annual 'Spirit of Pine Tree Society' award (press release)". Pine Tree Society. August 30, 2010. Retrieved February 23, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Editorial: The blessings of philanthropy". Capital Weekly. March 5, 2009. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  5. ^ "Successes of Last School Year" (PDF). Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers. Fall 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 3, 2011. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  6. ^ Briggs, Cora C. (December 26, 2000). "Norlands' Grant to Support Civil War Magic Lantern Show". Sun Journal. p. B3. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  7. ^ "Tufts Fund for Arts, Sciences & Engineering" (PDF). Tufts University. July 8, 2007. p. 2. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  8. ^ "Maine Women's Hall of Fame – Honorees". University of Maine at Augusta. 2016. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Current Endowed Scholarships/Funds". Northern Maine Community College. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  10. ^ "AY 2011/2012 Scholarships available through SMCC" (PDF). Southern Maine Community College. September 1, 2011. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  11. ^ "Benefactor Award Winners" (PDF). Council for Resource Development. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Hallowell Woman Named 2001 Friend of CMTC". Sun Journal. January 28, 2002. p. C12. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  13. ^ Bouchard, Kelley (September 24, 2010). "Donors investing in students; Private money is pouring in to help community colleges cope with growth". Portland Press Herald. Archived from the original on May 5, 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2016 – via HighBeam.
  14. ^ "Donors". The Foundation for Maine's Community Colleges. 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  15. ^ "Norlands Living History Center – Annual Meeting". August 14, 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  16. ^ Averill, Joni (March 5, 2010). "Wounded Warrior Project participant to speak". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved February 23, 2016.