The college in Easton dedicated its new science center Thursday night, naming the building for longtime benefactors Tom and Mary Shields, who surprised the college with the largest donation in its 61-year history. Tom Shields, a Weymouth native and chairman and chief executive officer of the Quincy-based Shields Health Care Group, and his wife, Mary, a Brockton native, have been involved at Stonehill since the 1980s.
Tom Shields, whose network of imaging centers extends throughout New England, wanted to do something special for Stonehill College.
So he and his wife, Mary, donated $7 million to the college’s capital campaign, representing the largest single gift in Stonehill’s 61-year history.
The college showed its appreciation Thursday night at the dedication of its new 89,630-square-foot science center. Stonehill President Mark Cregan made the surprise announcement, before a crowd of about 225, that the building will be known as the Thomas F. and Mary J. Shields Science Center.
“I wanted to do something very good for the new science hall and to encourage (Stonehill) to move even further ahead,” Shields explained in a telephone interview.
“I’m always impressed with the level of education they’re able to deliver while also having very competitive tuition that a lot of working families can afford,” Shields said. “It’s a first-class education at a reasonable price and it continues to get better every year, as evidenced by the science hall.
“I thought I’d get a very good bang for my investment,” Shields said.
Shields, a Weymouth native, is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Shields Health Care Group, headquartered in Quincy. He and Mary, a Brockton native, began the family-owned business in 1972, when they opened the Madalawn Nursing Home in Brockton.
In 1986, Shields established the first independent community MRI center in Brockton. His company now operates 28 medical imagining facilities in New England.
Shields has a long association with Stonehill. He is a former chairman of its board of trustees, now a trustee emeritus, and with his wife created a scholarship program that benefits 10 students a year. Two of the Shields’ seven children graduated from Stonehill, and their daughter, Carmel, is a trustee.
Shields also was chairman of the college’s first capital campaign, which raised $23 million between 1992 and 1997.
The second and most recent campaign, Attaining the Summit, has a goal of $55 million, targeted for the science center, scholarships and athletics. The Shields’ donation of $7 million brought the total to $48 million, more than double what was raised in the first campaign.
Before to the Shields’ gift, the largest single donation to the college was $4 million in the mid-1980s from the estate of Mrs. Maurice Charles, a member of the Ames family. The money helped build the Sally Blair Ames Sports Complex.
“Tom and Mary are true and loyal friends,” said Cregan. “We wanted to thank them in a special way for their generosity. By dedicating (the science center) in their honor, we have ensured that the Shields legacy at Stonehill is recognized at a high-profile location on campus, one that is a hub of activity for students and faculty.”
The Shields Science Center is the largest building on Stonehill’s campus, housing the biology, chemistry, physics and psychology departments. Shields pointed out that 21 percent of Stonehill students are pursuing a science major, many of them the top students at the college.
Given that, his $7 million donation was a natural, Shields said.
“You don’t do these things without having a deep understanding of the people there,” said Shields.
“I enjoy it, my wife enjoys it, we feel good about it. No buyer’s remorse,” he said.
Vicki-Ann Downing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org