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In 1844, Charles Dickens wrote, “Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door.” Portland philanthropist Maddy Corson has done her part to ensure the truth of that saying, providing funding that has served as a catalyst for innovative legal service projects addressing the needs of the rural poor, the elderly, members of Maine’s immigrant community, and low-income children. At a time when nonprofit organizations must struggle to translate their work into the jargon of measurable outcomes and discrete units of service to secure grants and contracts, her support has been based on a straightforward recognition of the problem and respect for the organization that seek her help. Channeling her personal generosity into causes that will serve the greater interests of justice in Maine, Maddy Corson exemplifies the way in which an individual can make a difference in her own community.
Her family background encompasses both one of Maine’s great publishing legends, Guy Gannett, and those who made their living from the sea as lobstermen. Graduating with a BS in Education from Wheelock College, Maddy taught elementary school in both public and privates school systems before raising a family of four children. Increasingly active in the family business, she was first elected to the board of directors of Guy Gannett in 1981 and became its Chairman in 1994. In 1998, she oversaw the sale of the Gannett family’s Maine newspapers to the Seattle Times Co., one of the few remaining independently owned newspaper companies in the country.
Maddy has served on the boards of numerous nonprofit corporations including the Children’s Theatre of Maine, the Greater Portland Boys and Girls Club, the Maine Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Victoria Mansion. She has served on the advisory boards of educational institutions such as the University of New England and the University of Maine, and as a member of the Board of Visitors for the University of Maine Law School. She is an advisory trustee for the Maine Audubon Society and active in the Maine Women’s Fund. Past honors include the Mary Rines Thompson Award for exceptional volunteer service from the United Way of Greater Portland, the Paul Harris Awards from the Portland Rotary Club, an honorary doctor of humane letters from Thomas College in Waterville and the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce Henri Benoit Award.
For her leadership in using personal philanthropy to encourage and sustain justice initiatives in Maine, Madeleine Corson is the 2002 recipient of the Edmund S. Muskie Access to Justice Award.