Harold Alfond’s parents emigrated from Russia where his father found work in a shoe factory in Kennebunk, ME. Harold bought his first shoe factory on a tip from a hitchhiker and went on to found the Dexter Shoe Company, later coming up with the idea of factory outlet stores. When he sold the company to Berkshire Hathaway for $400 million in Berkshire stock in 1993, he continued to run the company but significantly stepped up his efforts in philanthropy in his home state of Maine, donating over $100 million to various charitable causes.
Mr. Alfond passed away in November, the same month that his Harold Alfond Foundation announced a challenge program aimed at newborns in the state of Maine. Each new baby born in the state will have $500 invested in a NextGen account, a college tuition savings account managed by the Finance Authority of Maine. The accounts will grow tax-free if they are used to pay for college tuition.
The accounts are expected to grow to over $2,000 in 18 years (the power of compounding), but if matched by $50 monthly family contributions, to over $25,000. Last year 14,152 births were recorded in the state so the program will cost approximately $7 million per year.
Harold Alfond never attended college, but his legacy could help to send thousands of young people onto higher education.