Amidst all of the celebration at Fall Gala 2022 was a more solemn announcement: the formation of a special Mitchell Institute alumni giving society named in honor of Truc Huynh, a remarkably gifted and altruistic Scholar, who passed away at the age of 40 in mid-June of 2022.
“At the time of his passing, Truc was involved with what had become a hallmark of his adult life: raising money for a youth-serving program,” Mitchell Institute President & CEO Jared Cash told the gathering of nearly 500 attendees.
“He was the 2001 Mitchell Scholar from Portland High School and a 2005 graduate of Bowdoin College. He became a prominent leader in greater Portland and was widely known for his gregarious and generous spirit. He was beloved by our organization.”
Cash shared that Senator Mitchell, reflecting on Truc’s legacy, said, “Truc was the epitome of a Mitchell Scholar, a first-generation college graduate who never forgot his roots, worked hard to achieve his dreams, and dedicated his life to giving back to his community.”
While Truc’s history of community service — asking people to join him in serving meals at the Preble Street soup kitchen on his birthdays, steadfastly supporting Camp Susan Curtis, and launching Fishing Across Maine to raise thousands of dollars for Wayside Food Programs — is nearly legendary in the greater Portland area, what may not be as widely known is that he made financial contributions to the Mitchell Institute at a level that matched and eventually surpassed the entire amount of the Scholarship award that he received in support of his education at Bowdoin.
Since then, several Mitchell Scholar Alumni have been inspired to do the same.
“So, this evening,” Cash told Gala attendees, “we are establishing something truly special. Tonight, we are announcing the Truc Huynh Alumni Giving Society, to honor all Alumni who have made financial contributions back to the Institute at a level that surpasses the scholarship assistance they were awarded as Scholars.”
At this writing, 11 Scholar-Alumni have joined Truc in making financial contributions to the Institute over the years that match or exceed the Scholarship received and by doing so are founding members of the Truc Huynh Alumni Giving Society: Eric Haskell, the 2000 Scholar from Deer Isle-Stonington High School; Cody Humphrey, the 2009 Scholar from Gray-New Gloucester High School; Emmaly Jurson, the 2010 Scholar from Hodgdon Middle/High School; Nathan Kinney, the 2008 Scholar from Mount Abram High School; Jason Long, the 2001 Scholar from South Portland High School; Dawn Madore-Bourgoin, the 1999 Scholar from Schenck High School; Michele Martin, the 1999 Scholar from Scarborough High School; Paige Piper, the 2008 Scholar from Poland Regional High School; Paul Suitter, the 2005 Scholar from Southern Aroostook Community School; Johann von Hoffman, the 2002 Scholar from Orono High School; and Jacqueline Walker, the 2002 Scholar from Van Buren District Secondary School.
Several members of the Truc Huynh Alumni Giving Society gathered with members of the Mitchell Institute staff for a first-annual reception held in late January at the Top of the East in Portland. Pictured left to right are Scholar Paul Suitter ’05, Scholar Paige Piper ’08, Mitchell Institute President & CEO Jared Cash, Scholar Nate Kinney ’08, Scholar Michele Martin ’99, Institute Project Associate Adam Thibodeau, and the Institute’s External Relations Associate and Operations Coordinator, Alex Carrier Hitchcox.
“Each of these Scholar-Alumni exemplifies Senator Mitchell’s vision for the Mitchell Scholars — that they give back to their communities throughout their lifetimes,” Cash said. “We are deeply grateful to the members of the Truc Huynh Alumni Giving Society and to all Alumni who recognize the role of the Mitchell Scholarship in their own lives by giving to the Institute so we can continue to support current and future generations of Scholars. Their generosity fuels our mission to increase the likelihood that young people from every community in Maine will aspire to, pursue, and achieve a college education.”
Emmaly Jurson ’10, who graduated from the University of Maine at Fort Kent with a degree in nursing and has been a nurse for the past nine years, became a member of the Truc Huynh Alumni Giving Society in January 2023. Her most recent gift put her over the top in paying forward the scholarship she received to the next generation of Mitchell Scholars.
“It was something I have wanted to do since being an undergraduate,” said Jurson, who now treats and cares for patients in Brewer and is nearly finished with schooling to become a nurse practitioner.
“I always told myself, ‘One day, I’m going to surpass what was given to me.’ Being a Mitchell Scholar was a huge highlight of my undergraduate experience. I always worked hard knowing that I was going to receive those checks from the Mitchell Institute to pay for school. All of those things that make it more than a scholarship check — learning leadership skills, hiking Katahdin at MILE I — make you part of the Mitchell Scholar community.”
And being part of that community, said Jurson, means being there for the next generation of Scholars.
“Since being a Scholar as an undergraduate, I have always wanted to be that person who helps someone else get through college and become what they always wanted to be,” she said. “That’s what the Mitchell Institute did for me.”
For fellow giving society member Dawn Madore-Bourgoin ’99, the decision to make financial contributions to the Mitchell Institute over the years has been informed by a growing awareness of the life her parents wanted for her after college.
“My younger sister and I knew early on that my parents expected us to put forth our best effort in school and to attend college. Growing up, I assumed that their motivation was for us to be more financially secure than they were,” said Madore-Bourgoin, who earned a degree in Sociology at the University of Maine. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that it was much more about happiness than it was money. They didn’t have the opportunity to find employment that they enjoyed or found fulfilling, and they wanted something different for us.”
Madore-Bourgoin, who went on to earn a master’s in Accounting at the University of Southern Maine and is now the controller at PAF Transportation in Scarborough, said that while no job is without challenges, she has made good on her parents’ hopes by finding joy in what she does.
“That wouldn’t have been possible without access to higher education,” she said. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to make choices about what my future was going to look like, and the Mitchell Scholarship was an important piece of that. Now that I’m able to repay that support, I’m happy to help future scholars receive those same opportunities.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Truc Huynh Alumni Giving Society, please contact Jared Cash, President and CEO of the Mitchell Institute.