Harold Alfond: Founder, Business Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
1914 – 2007
Ever since he could remember, Harold Alfond always loved the game of golf. In fact, one of his first jobs as a boy was caddying for 25 cents an hour at a golf club in his hometown of Swampscott, Massachusetts during the Great Depression.
After high school, Mr. Alfond followed his father into the shoe manufacturing business in Kennebunk, Maine, moving up from “odd shoe boy” to plant supervisor in only two years. In 1940, Mr. Alfond and his father founded their own shoe factory in Norridgewock, Maine, the first of several successful businesses Mr. Alfond would establish during his illustrious career.
In 1955, Mr. Alfond founded the successful Dexter Shoe Company in Dexter, Maine. Mr. Alfond pioneered the factory outlet store at his Skowhegan, Maine plant in 1971, the first of over 80 Dexter outlet stores. At its peak, Dexter employed nearly 4,000 people, manufactured over 7.5 million pairs of shoes annually and generated annual sales exceeding $250 million. In 1993, at age 79, Mr. Alfond sold Dexter Shoe Company to Warren Buffett in exchange for Berkshire Hathaway stock.
The sale of Dexter Shoe allowed Mr. Alfond to accelerate his true passion, philanthropy. Mr. Alfond and his wife Bibby had established the first private foundation in Maine in 1950, beginning a family commitment to charitable giving that continues to this day. They consistently supported education and health care with a special emphasis on youth development. Today, over thirty academic, athletic, healthcare, and community buildings and facilities bear the Alfond name. And over 600 students have received Alfond scholarships since 1950.
Mr. Alfond’s legacy gift to Maine was the Harold Alfond College Challenge, in which every Maine baby less than one year of age receives a $500 college scholarship when the parents open a college investing account. Mr. Alfond committed nearly all of his wealth to the Harold Alfond Foundation to fund charitable causes in the State of Maine for generations to come.
In Belgrade Lakes, Mr. Alfond wanted to create “a golf club for the regular guy.” And it was with great joy and fervor that he played the course well into his late 80s. Today, Harold Alfond is fondly remembered by all who knew him, and by all who get to enjoy the terrific experience of playing a round at Belgrade Lakes Golf Club.