A Moment of Pure Magic Inspires Philanthropy

Photo of Emmanuel Mutshaila '22 and Prof. Richard Bilodeau '96, '98G

(L) Emmanuel Mutshaila ’22, co-host of the Great University Campaign launch event with (R) Professor Richard J. Bilodeau ’96, ’98G, USM School of Business

Portland, ME – The Great University Campaign Launch Party on September 21 was orchestrated by a full cast of characters that included USM students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors, and others who entertained and informed a large and appreciative audience. Among the participants was USM School of Business faculty member, Richard J. Bilodeau ’96, 98G, who moderated a conversation with five of USM’s tenacious, talented students.

The evening had a profound impact on Professor Bilodeau, leading to an inspired decision. Here’s how he describes his experience.

“Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in the launch of USM’s $46M Great University Campaign. The night was special for many reasons. We met our new president, Jackie Edmondson. We heard about the newly named McGoldrick Center for Career & Student Success and the Center for the Arts. We celebrated our initial fundraising successes and laid out the path for the final leg of the journey. And, we were inspired by our amazing students, past and present. They shared their challenges and triumphs, reminding us that our students are what make USM a truly great University.

“One of our hosts for the evening, engineering major Emmanuel Mutshaila ’22, made the night. Although I have never had Emmanuel as a student, that evening he showed the audience in Hannaford Hall why I show up day after day, semester after semester to teach. His words, wisdom, humor, and experience sparked deep thinking, a little crying, and much laughter. I can think of no better motivator to be a great professor than sharing time with a great student.

“At one point, Emmanuel cracked up the audience when he joked that he aspired to having his name on a building, but all he was offered was a picture with Champ. That moment was pure magic. Hundreds of people were now smiling and chuckling at a fundraising event––a testament to Emmanuel’s brilliance as an emcee.

“Later than evening I had an idea. Although I could not afford to put Emmanuel’s name on a building, what if I could do something to honor him that was a step above a picture with Champ?

“I decided to dedicate one of the first seats in USM’s new Center for the Arts in honor of Emmanuel Mutshaila as part of the “Take a Seat” program. He was a big part of the Great University Campaign launch and now he can be a part of its legacy.”

When Professor Bilodeau surprised Emmanuel with the news about the gift, Emmanuel’s first response was, “But I was only joking about wanting my name on a building!” That joke inspired an act of generosity that will endure––and the idea is catching on. More individuals and even groups of people are coming forward to “take a seat” in the name of teachers, students, mentors, partners, or others who have touched their lives.

About the “Take a Seat “Program

The “Take a Seat” program is a new way to support one of the campaign’s key initiatives: the Center for the Arts, slated to break ground on the Portland campus in spring 2023. Donors may name a seat in the Center’s 200-capacity Performance Hall for a gift of $5,000, or the 75-capacity Arts Lab for $1,878 (in honor of the year USM was founded).

You can name a seat for anyone you choose with a gift payable over up to five years––that boils down to $83.30 or $31.20 a month. The names will be memorialized on individual plaques and will be part of the life of the building for many years to come.

For further information, please contact Sarah Whitfield at sarah.whitfield@maine.edu or (207) 350-1316. Or Take Your Seat today.