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.”
Planning Ahead: Bruce Hanson
Self described as "ahead of the curve when it comes to financial stuff," Bruce Hanson of Augusta is thinking of the future.
At an early age, Bruce worked to secure his financial future by contributing to a retirement fund and investing in the stock market-putting a little aside each year in order to be ready to meet his financial needs in the future. Bruce says, "Thinking back, I think that my first membership to support public radio in Maine and my first investment occurred at about the same time. Both interests have grown together in my life, and both have made me somewhat richer, though in quite different ways."
At 40, Bruce began thinking beyond retirement and beyond his own lifetime-remarkable when most people his age are simply satisfied to have some type of retirement plan in place. Ultimately, those thoughts led to planning his estate.
With advice from various sources including a local legal technician, Bruce created a simple will designed to carry out his wishes after he dies. "It doesn't have to be expensive or intimidating," he says. "In fact, there is a great sense of closure to getting this done."
Bruce isn't what one would consider a typical philanthropist. Philanthropy, however, is exactly what he had in mind when he decided to leave a legacy to support, through his will, radio programming at the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.
A firm believer that middle class people can make a big difference in the future of charitable organizations, Bruce says, "Middle class people have an obligation to support something." It's a sense of duty he describes as "bourgeois oblige." His selection of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network as the recipient of his legacy is based on the personal connection he feels to the service. "I live with public radio. It's my daily companion." His commitment to the organization started with annual support, which then blossomed into volunteerism, and now has resulted in providing for the station in his will. "Public radio is a big piece of my life and that's why I chose it for my legacy."
Bruce suggests that people think about something that means a lot to them in their life when planning their legacy-and do it. In his case, Bruce feels "a great sense of satisfaction to leaving something to an organization that will last longer than you do. In a sense, it's my attempt at immortality."
Bruce's attempt at living beyond his years will be a reality someday through his legacy to ensure the future of quality radio programming through MPBN. By a policy set by the Board of Trustees for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, all unrestricted bequests are contributed to the organization's endowment. In this way, Bruce's hopes and dreams for the service for which he cares deeply will be realized.