David L. Royte was the founder of The Labor Record of Maine, the AFL-CIO Building Trades Council newspaper. Upon his retirement in 1988, he remained the publisher, general manager, and owner of that publication. But his reading ranged far beyond his own paper. His daughter, Merle Nelson, recalls her father “always with a book in his hand, always appreciating the written word.” David also showed great dedication to the Maine Humanities Council, serving as a board member for six years in the 1980s.
A community member with compassion and a terrific sense of humor, David’s non-academic perspective was new to MHC’s board. One of his major duties was the evaluation of grant proposals from communities around the state. His understanding of Maine’s diverse industries and organizations guided his thoughtful, evenhanded treatment of these proposals.
Among the greatest contributions David made to MHC was forming the first Development Committee and encouraging a change in the organization’s philosophy of funding. In the first two decades since its founding in 1976 as an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, MHC received over 98% of its funding from this source. Since the mid-1990s, inspired in part by David’s ideas, diversification—from national grants to individual donors—now defines MHC’s budgets, and we receive less than a quarter of our resources from the NEH.
David died in 1990; in 2006, his children established the David Royte Fund to honor their father’s belief in philanthropy and the greater good. It enables MHC to offer Letters About Literature, a program that gives Maine students of all economic and educational backgrounds the opportunity to express themselves through writing about the books they love best.