Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tom Hodge, YWAA Leader

Thomas R. Hodge '46, a former YWAA board member who served Yale in many ways and was awarded the Yale Outstanding Service Award in 2000, died Mar. 15. A resident of Thornwood, he was 87.

Hodge graduated from Yale after attending Hotchkiss and the Punahou School in Oahu, Hawaii, where he grew up.  Hodge received the Yale service award at the YWAA annual scholarship banquet.  Then Governor Georgia Pataki '67 made the presentation to Hodge, as YWAA paid tribute to his service to many Westchester institutions.  

His family will hold a memorial service at the Ridgeview Congregational Church in White Plains Jun. 14.

At Yale, Hodge studied engineering, earning a B.Eng. He spent 37 years as an executive at AT&T, retiring as a division manager in New York. He was involved with the United Way of Westchester and Putnam counties for 38 years and spent six years as president of the board of education in Mount Pleasant.

For three years, he helped lead the Westchester-based Retired Executive and Professional Think Tank, where retired senior businessmen advised managers of local organizations, including non-profit groups and government agencies. Hodge coordinated monthly sessions with agencies, including the Westchester Department of Public Works, to find solutions to problems in operations and organization.

"It's a win-win situation," Hodge told the New York Times in 1990. "There are a lot of people in Westchester who have made money in satisfying careers who are now willing to use their skills and experience to give a hand to the agencies that can't afford all the managerial assistance they need."

Hodge was active in community service in Westchester in many other ways, too. He was affiliated with the Donald Reed Speech Center, the Boy Scouts of America, the Mount Pleasant Library, the Historic Hudson Valley, and the Westchester Midwifery Birth Center.  He was member of the Ridgeview Congregational Church for over 50 years.

"Citizens shouldn't bewail the growth of big government unless we ourselves step up to do what we can to meet society's needs," he once wrote. 

For 60 years, he was married to Virginia Ann Hodge, who died seven years ago. They met in Washington, D.C., and had a daughter, Judy, and three sons, Peter, Tom, and Bob, who all survive him, as do six grandchildren. "Dad grew up on a Hawaiian volcano, Diamond Head, and Mom in the Mississippi Delta cotton fields," the children wrote after his death.

"A humble man, Dad would never toot his own horn, but we will," his children said. "He ate poi but abhorred grits, ignored the smoke when he took us to rock concerts, drove a VW Beetle '59 and waved to the other VW owners.  His mind was a search engine before the Internet was invented. He was comfortable quoting Milton and Shakespeare, as well as Pogo and Fats Waller."

"Tom Hodge was a dear friend to many Yalies and others in Westchester," YWAA Chair Emeritus Merrell Clark '57 '70 MAR wrote in tribute to Hodge. Hodge helped start YWAA's annual summer outings at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Boscobel.

"Tom used to drag his family to the Shakespeare Festival at Boscobel, sometimes twice a year.  They remember vividly how his detailed knowledge of Shakespeare made all his family his students."

After his illness and a stroke, Clark said, "He regained his encyclopedic memory and enthusiasm right to his sudden, unexpected and peaceful departure."

Hodge was once an Olympic torchbearer, selected to carry the torch through Westchester streets. And he even ran the dirt track of Olympia Stadium in Greece barefoot.  His children wrote that family members were "smitten by his crew cut and bow ties, beguiled by Seafood Festivals--oceans of food he cooked for us on his birthdays."

YWAA board members remember him as a history buff, interested, for example, in the story and details of Benedict Arnold and John Andre' at West Point.

"Tom and my family had the common interest in historic buildings," YWAA board member Steve Snyder '78 MPPM said.  "He was the leader in YWAA visits to Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate and part of Historic Hudson Valley." Snyder recalled how Hodge would attend YWAA family events in the 1990s, even when he didn't have young children, to support as many YWAA activities as possible.

"Tom always offered help in anything he thought would benefit Yale," Snyder added.

Hodge, born Aug. 8, 1926, died Mar. 15.  "A puzzlist, historian, and Shakespearian," his children wrote. "He'd be amused at the date (of his passing), being familiar with the quotation:  'Beware the Ides of March.'"

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