In 1951, Uncas A. and Helen F. Whitaker of Harrisburg, Pa., encouraged their daughters to enroll at Hood College, the beginning of a relationship that continues to this day, supported by Ruth Whitaker Holmes ’55 of Naples, Fla.; Portia Whitaker Shumaker ’55 of Bonsall, Ca.; and The Whitaker Foundation.
From the beginning, Mr. and Mrs. Whitaker were keenly interested in the College. “They visited us frequently and especially enjoyed Hood’s traditional events, such as Campus Day and Strawberry Breakfast,” said Dr. Holmes.
“Our parents believed in education, and were especially pleased with what Hood offered,” said Mrs. Shumaker.
“Even when we were students, our father impressed on us the fact that we owed a debt to Hood, as our tuition did not nearly cover what it cost the College to educate us,” added Mrs. Shumaker.
The Whitakers’ interest in Hood continued after their daughters’ graduation. In 1957, Mr. and Mrs. Whitaker and their daughters gave more than $100,000 to Hood for an endowed professorship in chemistry, an amount to which they added in subsequent years. In his letter to the Whitaker family acknowledging the gift, President Andrew G. Truxal wrote, “One of my greatest ambitions since coming to Hood has been to see established the beginning of endowed professorships. You can have no idea, therefore, how excited I am at the prospect of being able to announce at Commencement-time this year that we have the first such professorship.”
“These chairs are important to the College fore several reasons,” explained Hood president Shirley D. Peterson. “First, the use of endowment income helps to support a senior faculty member, freeing additional College resources for other uses, such as scholarships. At the same time, an endowed chair enables the College to honor outstanding faculty.”
Throughout the years, the Whitaker family and The Whitaker Foundation, founded in 1975 for the purpose of improving health through the application of engineering science to solve biomedical problems, have continued to support Hood. In 1989, The Whitaker Foundation awarded a $225,000 grant to Hood to enhance its science program and to strengthen both the department of biology and the department of chemistry, physics, and astronomy. A similar grant for $342,000 was awarded in 1994 and included the department of mathematics and computer science.
“The Whitaker Foundation continues to make it possible for Hood to upgrade its scientific equipment, to support research opportunities for faculty and students, and to develop new pedagogy for teaching science and mathematics” said Sharron W. Smith, Whitaker professor of chemistry at Hood.
“Hood’s science and math programs are outstanding due in large part to these gifts, enabling the College to continue to attract a strong faculty and to provide students with excellent preparation for careers in science and mathematics,” said Dr. Smith.
In 1994, The Whitaker Foundation gave a $2 million gift to the Hood Campaign for the Second Century, to be used for a new $6.1 million campus center. This gift gave Hood the impetus to turn a long-held dream into a reality. Full funding of this project was completed and the College broke ground in the spring of 1996.
“Hood has needed a campus center since I was a student,” said Dr. Holmes. In addition to housing the division of student affairs, with its Center for Leadership and Service, the building will house the Book Center, the Commuter Services Center, the Post Office, a Campus Commons, and eating areas.
U.A. Whitaker was the founder and chief executive officer of AMP Incorporated in Harrisburg, Pa., the world’s largest manufacturer of electrical connectors. As an inventor and engineer, Mr. Whitaker recognized the promise that engineering held for improving medical care. Born in 1900, the son and grandson of college presidents, he was a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Institute, and Cleveland Law School. As a philanthropist, he strengthened the emerging field of biomedical engineering by urging engineers, scientists and physicians to collaborate and by supporting their research. Mr. Whitaker contributed to other educational institutions, such as M.I.T., Carnegie Mellon University, and Boston University, but always with a specific purpose in mind. The Whitakers also supported human service agencies and educational institutions in the Harrisburg area.
Mr. Whitaker died in 1975 and The Whitaker Foundation continues his philanthropic work.
Mr. Whitaker was supported in his philanthropy by his wife, Helen. A life-long supporter of the arts, she died in 1982, at which time the Helen F. Whitaker Fund was established in her honor. Mrs. Whitaker was a trustee of Naples Community Hospital, a life member emerita of the Corporation of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a trustee of Carnegie-Mellon University, and a board member of both the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra and the Fort Lauderdale Symphony.
Ruth Whitaker Holmes, who was awarded an honorary degree during Hood’s Centennial commencement in 1993, earned her bachelor’s degree from Hood in 1955, her master’s degree in nutrition at the University of Massachusetts in 1971, and a doctorate in higher education from Boston College in 1979. A registered dietitian, she received her degree from Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in 1956. She is a retired professor of home economics at Framingham State College, where she served as coordinator of the Food and Nutrition Division and director of the Coordinated Undergraduate Program in Dietetics. She was named to “Who’s Who of American Women” in 1982 and 1983 and is a volunteer for a shelter for abused women and children. Dr. Holmes served on the Hood College Board of Trustees for 12 years, was a member of the Hood Board of Associates, and has been active with the Hood Alumnae Fund.
In 1979, Dr. Holmes was elected a member of the Governing Committee of The Whitaker Foundation. After several years she was elected to the Executive Committee and in 1990 she was elected chair of The Whitaker Foundation, a position she held until 1994 at which time her husband, Dr. G. Burtt Holmes, succeeded her. As immediate past chair, she continues to be active with the Foundation.
Portia Whitaker Shumaker, who earned her bachelor’s degree in 1955 from Hood, and her husband John L. Shumaker, Jr., run a successful avocado ranch in California. Until several years ago, they also bred and raised horses on the ranch. Mrs. Shumaker, who inherited her mother’s love of classical music, is especially interested in opera and is active with the San Diego Opera Company. She is also a member of a local community chorus.
Mrs. Shumaker became a member of the Governing Committee of The Whitaker Foundation in 1985. Each year she travels to Washington, D.C., to meetings of the Foundation and represents the Foundation at the national level at its meetings around the country. She is an active Hood alumna, currently serving as a magazine reporter for the Class of 1955.