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New book aims to fill the gaps in the history of Nasson College

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Posted: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 5:33 pm

SPRINGVALE – For most people, the story of Nasson College ended in 1983. The small institution, based in Springvale, was shut down following a storm of financial and internal turmoil. The tale was at an end.

And that was certainly how Nasson chronicler Richard D’Abate saw things. D’Abate authored the epilogue of Albert Prosser’s ‘’Nasson: The Seventy Years,’’ and the scope of his work covered the final eight years of Nasson’s history. But D’Abate declined to examine the years following the school’s demise, when scandal and continued financial turmoil hung over the fallen institution like a cloud, even as efforts were made to raise Nasson from the dead. Although those efforts ultimately failed, they represent the true final chapter of the Nasson story – a chapter that is missing.

Yet that gap in the history should soon be closed, thanks to the work of author Rick Schneider. Schneider, an administrative judge who works in Washington, D.C, graduated from Nasson himself in 1971, is currently conducting interviews for a new book, which he hopes to have published and out by the time of Nasson’s 100th anniversary in the fall of 2012.

“There was just this vacuum of information out there,” Schneider said. “So writing this has been a little like putting the pieces of the puzzle together. When the epilogue (of “Seventy Years”) came out, D’Abate and Prosser just sort of wrapped it up at the end, but there was so much more going on after 1983. This book is, in a sense, ‘part 3.’”

Thus far, Schneider has talked to a few people formerly involved at Nasson, although he hopes to conduct many more interviews regarding the demise of the school in January during a special fact-finding trip to Maine. The majority of Schneider’s work toward the project to this point has been in the arena of data collection from newspaper clippings and various publications. His research has touched on a darker era of Nasson’s history, when scandal gripped Springvale as the school folded.

“In a nutshell, what happened was the school declared bankruptcy in 1982, and then closed its doors in 1983,” Schneider said. “Eventually, creditors realized that efforts to save the school would fail, and they decided to auction the place off and get whatever they could for it. That was scheduled for December of 1984, and literally the week of the auction it was revealed that there were discussion between the board of trustees and a guy named Edward Mattar.”

Mattar offered to buy the school and then reopen it as a functioning institution. But it turned out to be – at best – a misguided effort.

“It didn’t work out so well,” Schneider continued. “The school did open for a few years in the mid-’80s, but it was never like the old (Nasson). The old school had dormitories to board students, activities, clubs, athletics; this was essentially just a community school, and was never accredited. He basically abandoned the place after a few years, and properties went to seed.”

Eventually, the town was able to move in and take over much of the land. Some of the older buildings – including Nasson’s dining hall – were demolished; others were sold off or turned to other uses. The land where the dining hall once stood is now the Springvale Courthouse, while the community center and Little Theater continue to host community activities and shows. Although the likelihood of ever reopening the college as an institution of higher education probably died with Mattar’s failed effort, Schneider said, the idea is still batted around from time to time by the alumni.

“They used to talk about it every day,” he said. “But not so much anymore. In the early years after the college closed, it would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions to reopen. But since the demolition, why bother? They’d have to move to a new location, and it would just be a name – it would no longer mean anything to anybody.”

Still, the orphaned Alumni Association continues to unify the remaining student and former faculty, and preserve the memory of what Nasson once was. Schneider hopes that his book will also contribute to that effort to retain the memory of the little college, and he encourages those involved in Nasson’s final years to reach out to him at Nassonhistory@aol.com to lend a hand in the telling of the tale.

“This was just an idea I had kicked around for a while,” he said. “I reached out to Richard D’Abate, but he declined to get involved with this new section. So it was kind of put up or shut up time, and I thought it was something I could handle. I’m looking for a publisher – otherwise it’s just a big, long article.”

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