Hugh Beistle Woodward and Helen Elizabeth Kisner were classmates at Dickinson when they met and fell in love, sparking a lifelong partnership. More than a century later, their legacy lives on in a foundation that provides scholarships to new generations of Dickinsonians.
The daughter of a Carlisle physician and a member of Pi Beta Phi, Helen was a commuter student, and Hugh was a campus resident who was involved with Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Alpha Epsilon. They graduated in 1908 and married three years later—just after Hugh’s graduation from law school.
Hugh’s career took the couple from Pennsylvania to Colorado and then to New Mexico, where he amassed a fortune in real estate and served as U.S. attorney and lieutenant governor. Hugh, an impassioned conservationist, served on the boards of the National Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation Endowment, and he was awarded the Presidential Citation for Public Service, the U.S. Attorney General’s Certificate of Appreciation and the National Conservation Award.
One year after he and Helen flew to Carlisle to attend their 50th class reunion, Hugh received another high honor: an honorary doctor of laws degree from Dickinson. And when he passed away in 1968, Hugh left the Sandia Foundation half of his estate under the terms of his will. By the time Helen passed in 1974 at age 90, the remainder of their estate was transferred to the Sandia Foundation. At that time, the estate was valued at $8 million.
Today, those assets have grown 10 times that amount, and the Sandia Foundation, named for the picturesque mountain range east of the Woodwards’ Albuquerque home, has provided close to $40 million in tuition assistance at Dickinson and a like amount to students at the University of New Mexico, where Hugh served as a board member for many years. The foundation continues to fund financial aid and will continue to do so for generations of Dickinsonians, as both Dickinson and the University of New Mexico receive 45 percent (90 percent total) of the current year’s total distribution. The remaining 10 percent is distributed to educational, scientific, benevolent, religious and charitable organizations in Albuquerque, where the Woodwards lived for most of their adult lives.
While the Sandia Foundation has realized Dickinson educations for many students over the years, the Woodwards’ presence also is felt in Dickinson’s first coed dormitory. Completed in 1969, Kisner-Woodward Hall was funded through a $750,000 bequest by the Woodwards, the largest bequest to Dickinson up to that date.
Published April 21, 2016