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Updated: March 6, 2024

‘Time to pass the torch’: Laurie Lachance to retire as Thomas College president

Laurie Lachance standing in Thomas College building File photo / Tim Greenway Thomas College President Laurie Lachance was honored as a Mainebiz Woman to Watch in 2022.

After more than a decade as president of Thomas College, Laurie Lachance plans to retire by June 2025.

"It's not a regular job, it's really almost a calling," Lachance told Mainebiz in a phone interview before Wednesday's announcement by the Waterville school.

The 62-year-old Dover-Foxcroft native is the first woman to lead Thomas College, just as she was the first woman to serve as Maine's state economist (under three governors) and to lead the Maine Development Foundation. She has also worked for Central Maine Power Co. as an economic analyst and corporate economist. In 2012, she became the fifth president of Thomas College.

"I've worked in only four places, and at some point it's time to pass the torch," she said. As for moving on from Thomas College, she said, "I feel like it's time."

In her next chapter, Lachance plans to spend more time with her family, as well as become a  “more impactful board member” at Bangor Savings Bank and MEMIC. She wants to step up her work as a volunteer at an Augusta-area food bank, and hopes to get involved with her local land trust and find other volunteer opportunities, though without taking on too much.

“I just don’t want to be president of anything,” said Lachance, who was honored by Mainebiz on the Next list in 2015 and as a Woman to Watch in 2022.

In Wednesday's announcement, Thomas College credited Lachance with leading the school through a period of significant growth and innovations including accelerated three-year undergraduate programs and online degree programs — part of a broader goal to prepare students for career success.

Lachance has also led campaigns that raised nearly $50 million to fund the construction of several facilities, including the Sukeforth Family Sports Center that opened in 2022.

Search committee 

Thomas College said its board of trustees has established a search committee to identify the school's next president, whom it plans to appoint by June 2025.

No matter who succeeds her, Lachance said “I want them to sincerely try to honor our students’ dreams and respect the potential within each of those students.”

Out of nearly 800 students enrolled at Thomas College in fall 2023, close to half (47%) were the first in their family to attend college. 

Lachance was also a first-generation college student, graduating in 1983 from Bowdoin College, which awarded her an honorary degree in 2022 in what she has called a “profoundly affirming and healing” experience. She earned an MBA from Thomas College in 1992.

Someone to 'lead from the heart'

While Lachance will not be involved in the search for her successor at Thomas College, she told Mainebiz it would be a non-traditional search for someone who will “lead from the heart,” and without necessarily coming from academia.

“We’re looking for a leader who’d be willing to come to a situation and lead with great passion and care and innovation, and understand there’s not ever going to be a typical day at work,” she said. 

Lachance also said that while she's happy to overlap with the person who succeeds her and do a "warm handoff," she would also be open to passing the baton before June 2025 if needed.

“If the board finds the right person,” she said, "I will graciously depart a little earlier if that will help the college … I’m very curious to see who emerges, and if it’s someone with a passion for education and a passion for this region, I’m going to love that person no matter what.”

She also hopes for a successor as idealistic as she has been throughout her tenure at Thomas College.

"It's a wild world, and I hope the person will be naive enough to think they can make a real difference," she said.

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