In 1981, Irma and William Thalheimer ‘27, deeded their Orr's Island property to Bowdoin College with a provision that they could live out their lives there. Located just 12 miles from campus, the property contains 118 acres of fields and forests, nearly two and half miles of undeveloped ocean frontage wrapped around two peninsulas in Harpswell Sound, and a well-maintained farmhouse and barn. William Thalheimer died in 1986; his wife remained in the house until 1992 and died two years later. The former salt water farm is rich in natural and cultural history. Previous occupants of the property include indigenous inhabitants; colonist Joseph Orr (for whom Orr's Island was named); the Wyers and the Hansons (New England farming families); the Winnewisser brothers; and the Thalheimers who, for the second half of the 20th century, enjoyed its beauty during retirement. Bowdoin retained the property to augment its academic programs. In 1995, Leon Gorman '56 and his wife Lisa, provided the funding necessary to develop the property into an academic laboratory and research facility.
Now home to Bowdoin's Coastal Studies Center, the former Thalheimer property is the site of the Bowdoin Marine Science Semester. BMSS students and faculty take advantage of on-site resources including: the farmhouse (for classroom and digital computation work); terrestrial laboratory; marine laboratory (with flowing seawater); and, docks and piers. The CSC property also includes the Bowdoin sailing center and five miles of hiking trails. The Thalheimers' careful stewardship of this remarkable property resulted in the College becoming only the fifth owner of this pristine land in over 122 years. In arranging a retained life estate with the College, Bill and Irma left a legacy to both Bowdoin and Harpswell. The generosity of the Thalheimers and the Gormans have allowed Bowdoin to offer an exceptional and unique academic experience to Bowdoin students now and in the future.