Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Deed of Trust

By Nicholas Allanach

One hundred years ago, on November 15th, 1909, chocolate industrialist, Milton S. Hershey visited New York with his wife, Catherine, to sign a Deed of Trust, which would soon turn the 486-acre farm of Milton’s birth into the Hershey Industrial School for orphaned boys. Unable to have children of their own, Milton and Catherine decided to do something extraordinary - provide a place where impoverished children from broken homes could be housed, clothed, fed, and educated at no costs. 100 years later, Hershey’s chocolate empire continues to fit-the-bill for over 1,700 students from various backgrounds and plans to increase this number of students to 2,100 by 2013. Since its inception when those “first boys” arrived at “the Homestead” in 1910, the Milton Hershey School has graduated over 18,000 girls and boys.

I’m honored to have graduated from this unique institution. Unfortunately, back in 1997, I did not truly appreciate the efforts of my house parents, valuable lessons from my teachers, and –most importantly- sacrifice my father made when sending my younger brother and me to this strange place so far from our home in Maine. During the spring of my graduation, I was angry at the world and hadn’t properly dealt with the pain I had experienced as a boy. In fact, there were a few times I was very close to actually being “terminated” from the school for my behavior. Understandably, like many teenagers, I felt compelled to rebel for not having a "normal" adolescence and was perhaps "forced to grow-up too quickly." But now, I realize how fortunate I was to have graduated from “the Milt”.

Admittedly, as anyone who has spent time cleaning toilets at 6am or getting ready for church every Sunday morning can attest, life was not always perfect at Milton Hershey. In fact, there was and continues to be much about the institution I disagree with. Nevertheless, I realize it is imperative to adhere to the founding document that is The Hershey Deed of Trust so that the good things about Milton Hershey School forever remain true to their intent – to raise and educate children as functional members of society. 

Of course, the things I disliked while there have likely grown worse, but nevertheless, although I disagree with the uniformed clothing policy, bigoted views against LGBT issues, and conservative religious leanings (many of the house parents, staff, and teachers are born again Christians) I’ve accepted the fact that these unsavory aspects of the school do not discredit the very real good Mr. and Mrs. Hershey’s mission creates anew everyday for the thousands of lives that may never have had the chance to grow and evolve.

It would be nice to see other philanthropic capitalists make the same commitment to “do good” and “treat others as we would like ourselves to be treated”, like Milton and Catherine Hershey did so long ago. But I will not hold my breath. Nevertheless, as a graduate of the school, I now realize the duty I have to this "Hershey legacy." Like him, I suppose I must make the world a better place than it was before I got here. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Milton Hershey and I thank him for his deed. I’m also thankful for the discipline and work-ethic taught to me by my house parents. I am thankful for the amazing teachers and most importantly thankful my father encouraged me to “stick-it-out” and “make the best” of my time.

With over six billion dollars in assets from the chocolate company, the Milton Hershey School is one of the wealthiest schools in the world. Of course, such wealth would not have been possible if it had not have been for the philanthropic vision of Milton Hershey and his wife Catherine. It would also not be thriving, as the school continues to do today, if it was not for the diligence of the MHS Alumni Association and Board of Governors who ensure the Deed of Trust is never compromised. 

The generosity of this institution is not to be taken lightly, if the Hersheys had given-in to greed (as capitalists so often do) instead of giving back, than the thousands of lives they affected by deciding to start their school would be dramatically different today. I’m inspired by their work and the fact that one good idea could proliferate so powerfully through history. Their deed is truly our inspiration.

Happy Birthday Milton S. Hershey School!

1 comment:

Ron and Ben said...

well said..... and for me worth the pain.

I am proud of you!\

Love Dad