Fit For a King: U of Maine Creates a Professorship Honoring a Certain Graduate

There's a quote from Cormac McCarthy's book The Road that succinctly captures our thoughts about Stephen King's work: "Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever."

Indeed, Mr. King has implanted so many harrowing and terrifying images in our heads that perhaps it's best to focus on the good stuff. Maybe it'll have some merciful diluting effect.

And so we turn to news out of Orono, Maine, where the University of Maine's English department announced it received a $1 million grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation to establish the Stephen E. King Chair in Literature. The chair is the university’s first English department professorship that is named after someone.

King's propensity for keeping us up at night aside, it's a pretty nifty move. Why? Well for starters, it's no secret that the humanities are struggling mightily to stay relevant. Modernizing liberal arts in the digital age is one of the core missions for grantmakers like the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. And the Harold Alfond Foundation's gift to the University of Maine falls squarely within this paradigm, but with a marketing-savvy twist — attaching King's name to the professorship raises the department's profile and will hopefully attract top-tier talent. Those are good things.

"[The position] would help the English department expand its role and influence in literature, creative writing and the humanities. King is an inspiration for students who are fascinated by literature and its contributions to human culture. The opportunity to study with the King Chair gives them one more reason to choose Umaine," said Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences Emily Haddad. The school plans to fill the position this fall.

Most fans of King's personal history and philanthropy won't be too shocked by this announcement. After all, he graduated from the University of Maine in 1970, and along with his wife Tabitha, has since donated millions to his alma mater. (Click here for a more thorough look at King's philanthropy, which also extends to Maine's fire departments as well as health and art and conservation causes.) 

Which brings us to the other involved party, the Harold Alfond Foundation. The Portland, Maine-based grantmaker primarily focuses on education, healthcare, and youth development causes in its home state. Major grants have been made to build athletic facilities for public and private schools, build hospitals and cancer treatment centers, and create a children's garden at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

And we'd be remiss if we didn't remind you of the Harold Alfond College Challenge, previously discussed here, which aims to give families a head start in college savings funds for their kids.

Ah, helping families save for college. What a nice, pleasant thought. We'd be happy to let that one settle in our heads for years.