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A Mainebiz reporter's memories of Nasson College

BY Peter Van Allen

7/9/2018

Maureen Milliken, a staff writer at Mainebiz, writes about planned redevelopment of parts of the former Nasson College campus (see Page 18). As Maureen reports, Nasson's closure in 1983 was part of a one-two economic punch that affected Sanford and Springvale for years to come. Maureen is a seasoned reporter and editor, but she was a cub reporter when she was sent out to cover the Nasson story in 1983. Here is an account of that time, in her words:

I began my reporting career in the Sanford bureau of the Biddeford Journal-Tribune on May 11, 1983, 10 days after Nasson College in Springvale closed. It was quite a story for a rookie reporter to get thrown into — a college in the heart of a village closing just a few years after the village itself was decimated by urban renewal.

One chapter of what came next, though, I didn't get to cover. It's probably the most fascinating chapter of the history of the campus, which is now almost fully redeveloped 35 years later.

For 15 years after the college closed, it was the stage for a constant struggle between Massachusetts businessman Edward P. Mattar III, who initially promised to open a new college on the site in 1985. He did, more or less, but it never had more than a couple dozen students or used more than one or two buildings and fizzled out.

What followed were legal battles and ugliness that included things like Mattar dumping piles of manure on the Main Street lawn of the campus, cutting down shrubbery and painting at least one one building red, white and blue. He also kept buildings vacant and unmaintained, and they crumbled.

Things finally came to a head in 1997, after several of the buildings seized by the state Department of Education from Mattar in 1996 went up to auction, but Mattar secretly bought them back using a proxy. In the legal hurricane that followed even the state's congressional delegation got involved, and Mattar's involvement ended in 1998.

He died in November 2007 when he jumped from his 27th floor apartment in Colorado, shortly before he was to face sentencing for a conviction on multiple fraud and other charges in a Denver case.

For more on the history of the college in the years after it closed, “College for Sale,” by alumnus Richard Schneider, is an excellent source.

Mainebiz won a silver award and a bronze award in the Alliance of Area Business Publishers' annual editorial excellence competition, which included 484 entries from 37 publications. The awards were presented at AABP's annual summer conference June 23 in Washington, D.C.

Mainebiz received the silver award for “best ancillary publication” in the small publication category for “Fact Book: Doing Business in Maine.” The judges commented: “Mainebiz makes itself the authority on doing business in Maine. The volume of statistical information and the amount of effort that went into this publication are incredible. There is a mix of visuals, with strong graphics, typography and photographs. The publication is also commended for finding diverse subjects.”

The bronze award for “best feature layout: newspaper” was awarded for the Mainebiz 2017 Next Award issue, which featured profiles of 13 visionary business leaders who are moving Maine's economy forward.

Mainebiz's sister publications, the Hartford Business Journal and Worcester Business Journal, combined to win nine AABP awards.