Decades later, college's good deed still pays Gifts: Clarence Hodson's family trust has given $77 million to four Maryland colleges over 75 years, thanks to a school's students and faculty helping him change a flat tire.

The Education Beat

December 10, 1997|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

THE STORY GOES that Clarence Hodson had a flat tire while driving by Washington College in Chestertown one day in the second decade of this century. Students and faculty went out of their way to help Hodson change the tire.

The gesture paid off. A grateful Hodson dedicated the proceeds from a family trust to Washington and three other Maryland private colleges. Over the next three-quarters of a century, the Hodson Trust has given more than $77 million to Washington, the Johns Hopkins University, St. John's College in Annapolis and Hood College in Frederick.

On Thursday, the trust announced its 1997 installment: $874,000 to St. John's and just under $2 million each to Washington, Hopkins and Hood.

Hodson had plenty of money to give away. A bank president in Crisfield at 25, he founded Beneficial Loan Society in 1914. Beneficial Corp., based in Delaware, today has $17 billion in assets.

He was a trustee of Washington College, but why he chose the other three colleges is a mystery.

Hodson never graduated from college, but his granddaughter, Sally P. H. Hopkins, said he wanted to establish a university in Maryland. He died in 1928 and never had the chance.

Hopkins, who is a Washington College trustee, believes the tire-changing story, though she says it may have happened at Hood College. In any case, the yearly grants from the trust are real, they're welcome, and they're a college president's dream because they can pay for things that are very expensive: scholarships and technology.

"Yes, there is a Santa Claus," said William R. Brody, Hopkins president.

The Hodson gifts, however, aren't unrestricted, though the negotiations between Beneficial and the colleges are informal. Each year, the four presidents journey to Wilmington, sit around a table with officials of the trust and decide how they'll spend the money.

"We try to do something with each of them that has a little pizazz," says Finn M. W. Caspersen, Beneficial chairman and chief executive officer. "We also try to direct the money to where it's needed most. For example, Hopkins is on the cusp of being among the nation's five or six greatest universities. One way to push it into that category is to attract the very best students."

So the bulk of the Hodson grant to Hopkins goes to "merit" scholarships for highly able students. Enrolled at Hopkins, the thinking goes, those students won't be enrolled at Harvard or Yale.

Schools' soft-drink deals create a double irony

What is bothersome about the University of Maryland, College Park's entering a deal with Pepsi that gives the soft-drink giant exclusive rights to sell its products and display its advertising on the campus for 15 years?

The contract was approved Friday by the university's board of regents. In return for guaranteeing Pepsi's "pouring rights," College Park gets $8 million up front (with no strings attached), plus $260,000 in yearly commissions and other benefits.

The arrangement is perfectly legal, and it's far from unique. Towson University and Coppin State College have similar but much smaller deals with soft-drink purveyors.

And it's not really the size of the payment that's bothersome. College Park is a piker beside Pennsylvania State University ($14 million) and the University of Minnesota ($28 million).

No, what's vexing is an irony -- really a double irony.

The student athletes at colleges and universities can't accept so much as a free Pepsi for fear of polluting the "amateurism" of college sports and of inviting sanctions from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body of intercollegiate athletics.

bTC Meanwhile, the people charged with enforcing amateurism in college sports (and, not incidentally, with giving the student athletes a higher education) enter into lucrative contracts with the likes of Coke, Pepsi and Nike in return for millions of dollars.

The other irony is that the reason the cola and sneaker companies are willing to part with such enormous amounts of money is that they see in the popularity of college sports a splendid opportunity to increase profits.

CBS-TV will do segment on city's school in Kenya

The Baraka School, Baltimore's experiment in middle-school education in rural Kenya, gets an airing on network television tonight.

The CBS show, "Public Eye With Bryant Gumbel," will feature a nine-minute segment on the school, in its second year in the African nation.

The experiment, financed by the Abell Foundation, is designed to teach about 20 "marginal" boys of middle-school age in a disciplined rural setting thousands of miles from the city's hard streets.

Correspondent Alison Stewart has the assignment. The program airs locally at 9 p.m. on Channel 13.

Sojourner-Douglass, president mark 25 years

Time flies. It hardly seems possible that Sojourner-Douglass College is celebrating its 25th anniversary. And that Charles W. Simmons, a co-founder of the school, at 500 N. Caroline St., remains as president.

Pub Date: 12/10/97

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