Building a Life with MPBN: Ed and Melanie Hodgdon
Ed and Melanie Hodgdon jump-started Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s planned giving program one day quite innocently when they stopped by the Lewiston office and told the person at the front desk that they were leaving their estate to MPBN. They were told, "Don't move! We'll get somebody." Rob Gardiner, CEO at the time, came out to greet them and told them they were the first MPBN members to come forward to let people know their charitable intentions. For this reason, the Hodgdons are considered the charter members of MPBN's Visionary Circle.
Ed is a native Mainer from Nobleboro and Melanie moved from New York to Jefferson in 1962. Melanie is a Colby graduate. Ed graduated from U Maine-Orono and obtained his MSc from the University of Guelph in Ontario. Both have had careers in teaching at the middle school through college levels with an emphasis on the sciences.
They purchased their Bristol house in 1980—a fixer-upper with 25 acres—little knowing that they would devote the next thirty years turning it into what they would have purchased if they’d only had the money! While neither had a background in construction or landscaping, they learned many of these skills by reading a growing collection of do-it-yourself books and by watching public television. Favorite programs included This Old House and Hometime. When the time came to begin furnishing their home, The New Yankee Workshop with Norm Abram moved to the top of the list of “must-see” programs.
Like their home, their 25 wooded acres have been transformed over the decades. The land now includes extensive vegetable and ornamental gardens. The Hodgdons maintain, “Successful landscaping relies on a blend of vision and technique. Over the years, we’ve found both on public television from sources including The Victory Garden and Square Foot Gardening.
During those pre-digital days, only four channels were marginally available. By turning the antenna, the Hodgdons could get good reception on only one channel. Because the antenna was in the confined and nearly inaccessible attic, the decision, once made, would be final. The choice was obvious.
Melanie tells the story of communicating by walkie-talkie with Ed, who was positioned in the attic, rotating the antenna. “A little to the right. Stop. Now to the left,” she directed him as she stood, watching the reception on their 13” television. They recall, "As long as we could get Ch. 10 (public television), that's all we needed." In addition to making use of public television’s how-to programming, the Hodgdons enjoyed its cultural offerings, even though the scope of the broadcast occasionally exceeded the scope of their television. Ed recalls sitting on the couch in their living room and using field glasses to view the subtitles to Wagner’s “The Ring.”
While teaching at Lincoln Academy, Melanie would quiz her science students on that week’s Nova or Nature programs, supplementing the biology curriculum with series like Life on Earth and The Ascent of Man. Ed’s approach to science education has always been inquiry-based, and programs such as Connections proved invaluable.
Ed says, “Television has a responsibility to teach. I found public broadcasting to be a wonderful resource for igniting the imagination. I recently had a conversation with a former student, now a physician, who recalled an episode of the Connections series he’d viewed in my chemistry class in 1990. The power of that series has stayed with him for twenty years.”
Why MPBN? The Hodgdons explain their continued devotion to public broadcasting, saying, "MPBN opens doors. It enriches our lives.”