Students used to call them “Bene-Hods.” It is a name that brings a smile to over 120 students and two to four faculty members every year. Some of them appear on the cover of this magazine. Those grins photographed on the Library stairs belong to recipients of scholarship and grant money from the Beneficial-Hodson Fund for Academic Excellence which now totals over $5.7 million. Our most promising faculty members and students have benefited since 1979 when the Beneficial-Hodson Fund for Academic Excellence was begun.
But the Beneficial-Hodson Trust has been helping Hood much longer than that. The name “Hodson” has been etched into the memories of Hood people through academic visits to Hodson Science Hall, through viewing artwork hung in the Hodson Gallery of the Tatem Arts Center, through strolls in the beautiful Hodson Outdoor Theater, and through the annual largess of the Trust. The name Hodson has been closely interrelated with Hood’s success and truly appreciated as a constant benefactor of the College. In fact, since 1936 Hood has received over $10.6 million from the Beneficial-Hodson Trust. This marks the fiftieth year since the Trust began providing money to four independent Maryland institutions: Johns Hopkins University, Washington, St. John’s, and Hood.
The man who made the name Hodson synonymous with aiding fine academic institutions in Maryland was himself from Crisfield, Md. Col. Clarence Hodson was the founder and past president of what is now the Beneficial Corporation. He had the vision and untiring drive to build an empire based on the belief that the average American worker, whose only asset was a weekly paycheck, could borrow money for a worthwhile purpose.
Col. Hodson was born in Laurel, Del. in 1868, a descendent of an early American family which emigrated from England to Dorchester County in 1664. Col. Hodson was educated by private tutors and later attended the Crisfield Academy. He was admitted to practice law in 1889 and became associated with his father, the Hon. Thomas S. Hodson. Together they formed the firm Hodson and Hodson.
Having been associated with the organization of the Bank of Crisfield, Col. Hodson was elected president in 1893 at the ripe old age of 25. He was married that same year to Sara M. Payne. They were blessed with three children, but unfortunately, his wife died in 1898. Three years later Col. Hodson married Lillian M. Brown, the daughter of a prominent Winston-Salem family. Col. Hodson received his commission in the Maryland Militia in 1896 and thoroughly enjoyed his four years of largely ceremonial duties.
Col. Hodson’s financial ventures began in 1893 with the formation of Clarence Hodson and Company—Brokers. He expanded his interests first to Baltimore and then to Philadelphia, and finally to Newark and New York City.
Throughout his forty-year career, Col. Hodson was director for more than forty banks, trust and mortgage companies, insurance companies, and public utilities. He used his experience working to encourage the enactment of small loan laws to force unscrupulous loan sharks out of business and to make small loans available to consumers at affordable interest rates. In cooperation with the Russell Sage Foundation, which began documenting the consumer need for small loans legislation in 1908, Col. Hodson saw his efforts rewarded with the enactment of the first Small Loan Law in New Jersey in 1913. On August 19, 1914, he founded the Beneficial Loan Society in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In the next few years, as laws similar to New Jersey’s were passed, his company opened its doors in other states. The first Maryland office was opened in Baltimore in March 1915.
In 1916, Col. Hodson was elected president of the Beneficial Loan Society, and in 1921 he organized Collateral Bankers, Inc., under which numerous offices were opened and operated as the Personal Finance Company. In 1923, he formed Industrial Lenders Mutual Insurance Company to insure Beneficial’s branch offices, and by 1928 his idea for borrowers’ life insurance had evolved into the “Dollar Monthly Plan,” with over $13 million of life insurance in force.
For decades, the Hodson family had been interested in the advancement of education. Col. Hodson inherited this interest from his father, who founded the Hodson Trust in 1920. Col. Hodson was an early benefactor of Washington College in Chestertown, Md. and was appointed to the Board of Visitors and Governors of the college in 1922.
His interest in Hood began in the early 1920’s while driving through Western Maryland. A stop in Frederick brought him into contact with Hood and established a relationship which was carried on by his wife, Lillian, after his death in 1928.
Lillian Brown Hodson, for whom the original Hodson Science Hall was named, became a member of the Hood Board of Trustees in 1955 and was a generous benefactor of the College. She was born in Winston-Salem, N.C. and graduated from Agnes Scott College and Mt. Vernon Seminary. She continued to live in East Orange, N.J. after Col. Hodson’s death where she was active in the community and her church. According to the dedication program for the Hodson Science Hall (October 1957) Mrs. Hodson was “modest to the point of incredulity” that the science hall should bear her name. Her generosity to Hood and the three other Maryland colleges was carried on by the Hodson Trust and her daughter, Mrs. James Hynson.
The story of Beneficial’s growth and continued success is told in a book, “You’re Good for More,” by George M. Williams who described the work habits of the founder, Col. Clarence Hodson: “ ‘Take a memo’ was the familiar command as Col. Hodson got off the elevator every morning. Moving rapidly, with cane swinging, and his chauffeur following with briefcases, the Colonel seemed to be giving orders to everyone in his path and an entourage followed him into his office.”
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Col. Hodson’s establishment of his trust fund, Hood begins to plan for the 100th anniversary of its founding. The awards and grants from the Beneficial-Hodson Trust have indeed made Hood “good for the more” than ever imagined possible back in the 1920’s when Col. and Mrs. Hodson first noticed Hood. A significant aspect of our centennial will be acknowledgement of all the Beneficial-Hodson Trust has meant and continues to mean for Hood College.