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Horace 'Hoddy' Hildreth, Jr.
Horace 'Hoddy' Hildreth, Jr. is known in Maine for his conservation leadership, his love of islands and his deep interest in alternative sources of energy. What may not be as well known is his connection to College of the Atlantic. Though he and his wife, the artist Alison 'Wooly' Hildreth, spend their summers on the island of Vinalhaven, in Penobscot Bay, and live three hours from the college, in Falmouth, Maine, Hildreth served on COA's board of trustees for seven years.
That was between 1994 and 2001. But as is the case with so many COA trustees, stepping off the board did not mean stepping away from the college. This spring, when COA students'with the help of a couple of faculty members'raised a wind turbine at Beech Hill Farm, Hildreth was one of the three donors (with former board chair and current trustee Sam Hamill, Jr. and social and environmental investor William Osborn) who made it possible.
A year before that, when COA hired Jay Friedlander as the Sharpe-McNally Chair in Green and Socially Responsible Business, the college got a substantial boost from the Hildreth Family Fund.
'Ed Kaelber got me involved,' says Hildreth. Though they didn't know each other, 'he knew of me, and just called up and said he wanted to come see me.' Not long after, Hildreth's name was added to COA's board of trustees. Hildreth smiles at the impact of COA founding president Kaelber's persuasiveness, but in many ways Kaelber just opened a door that the longtime environmentalist easily walked through.
'The concept of the college interested me a lot, it was certainly unique,' says Hildreth. 'The education that was offered struck me as being more imaginative and creative than I was aware of being offered at other colleges'I really liked COA's approach to food, to all the little things that are not generally part of an education in another kind of a college. And at that time I was not aware of any other college that had the same kind of attitude toward education and the environment'the atmosphere seemed different to me than what you'd find in other small New England colleges.'
The timing was good, too. Hildreth had just stepped down as president and chief executive officer of the media-focused Diversified Communications. Recently, with Hildreth remaining as board chair, the company has taken an interest in alternative energy.
The son of the late Gov. Horace Hildreth, Hoddy Hildreth's service on boards looks like a comprehensive list of regional environmental organizations: Conservation Law Foundation, Davis Conservation Foundation, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Community Foundation, Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Nature Conservancy's Maine chapter, not to mention his extensive board leadership of the Island Institute.
While a lifelong love of Maine and its woods and oceans set the stage for Hildreth's environmentalism, it was a firsthand view of what can happen without regulation that brought him into environmental law before the field was even known. As a prominent Portland lawyer, he found himself lobbying in Augusta for Maine's paper companies. 'It got to be obvious that they were playing fast and loose with the environment'with the woods,' Hildreth says. He stopped lobbying on those issues and soon ran for a seat in the Maine State Senate. In just two short years, from 1966-1968, he chaired the Natural Resources and the Legislative Research committees and wrote the first wetlands control law, the Site Location of Development law, and the legislation that'despite the flood of paper company lobbyists attempting to prevent it'in 1971 became the Land Use Regulatory Commission, or LURC, to oversee development in Maine's unorganized townships.
Hildreth's interest in wind power connects his environmentalism, love of islands and dedication to island communities. To support affordable electricity costs on Vinalhaven and North Haven, Diversified Communications helped fund the Fox Islands Wind Project. About a month after COA's turbine was raised at Beech Hill Farm, ground was broken for the first of three turbines on Vinalhaven. Wielding a shovel along with Hildreth, Maine Gov. John Baldacci and a half dozen or so others was Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree '77. Somehow, this shared effort with a COA alumna, whose home lies just across the Fox Island Thorofare from his beloved Vinalhaven, brings Hildreth's interests full circle.