The Jamie Hudson Bequest

March 31, 2017

A Transformative Legacy for Berkeley

In the world of fund-raising it is a joke that hell for a development director is to be assigned to raise money for a divinity school. The reasons are obvious. No graduate ever amasses a fortune; most earn notoriously low salaries. One divinity school development director remarked: “In raising money we are entirely dependent on angels flying by and dropping a bit of gold on us as they pass over.”

Jamie Hudson

Such an angel recently flew Berkeley’s way, and the result is the largest gift to the seminary in living memory. That angel is Lawrence Jamison Hudson. Jamie died at age 58 a year ago on April 3, 2016 of Lou Gehrig’s disease, and left a benefaction to Berkeley of an astonishing $490,000.

Jamie was the son of Rosemary and Donald Hudson of Marion, Massachusetts, and Vero Beach, Florida. Jamie grew up in Rowayton, Connecticut, and graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, where he was a popular student and social chairman of St. Anthony’s Hall. Following graduation from Trinity, he continued his studies at the London School of Economics, earning a master’s degree in accounting and finance. While there, he travelled extensively all over the UK. He loved to visit National Trust properties, which sparked his interest in nature. Later he learned that The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) in Massachusetts was older than the National Trust and the model on which the NT was based.

After getting his feet wet in finance, he joined Staples where—over a ten-year period—he rose to the rank of vice president and assistant treasurer. Seeking to make his fortune in start-ups, he left Staples and experienced the excitement of that world. His final eight years were spent at Fireman Capital Partners, LLC, where he became managing director and chief financial officer. The firm specializes in retail ventures, and one of their fashionable products was named “Hudson Jeans”! The British union jack was on the label of these jeans. Jamie was often cited as a fine mentor by those who worked for him; he was also a trusted advisor and friend to many outside the firm.

Jamie derived immense delight from the outdoors. He enjoyed golf and tennis and was an avid skier, biker, and swimmer. He often hiked with his father—including, for example, to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back. He became a trustee of TTOR, serving on numerous committees and supporting it generously. By 2006, the TTOR newsletter noted that “Boston resident Jamie Hudson became the only Trustees volunteer known to have explored every single reservation…Hudson set out to experience each property after being named to the Corporate Board of Trustees in 2000. The former Connecticut resident quickly racked up more of Massachusetts’ seascapes, rugged hills, and remote forest jewels than most Bay State natives ever see…‘The most difficult [reservation] to get to is Medfield Meadow Lots…It’s a swamp. There is no land.’ Hudson’s description doesn’t exaggerate. Medfield Meadow Lots’ entire 16 acres reside in the Charles River floodplain, comprising three freshwater marshes. There are no trails. ‘I had to go there last winter when there was a deep freeze, just to say I’d been there. It was frozen and snow covered’…Also saved for nearly last was a winter trip to similarly trail-free Bridge Island Meadows in Millis, an 80-acre area of dense vegetation engulfed by wetlands…. 100 miles west of Millis he hiked a mile and a half across a frozen lake to reach the northern shore of Goose Pond.” 

It is little wonder that no one else has ever managed to hike every reservation. Jamie’s father Don comments that “throughout his life, Jamie was a deep believer in aggressively conserving special landscapes. In his own words, he had ‘a relentless focus on making the world a nicer, more attractive, prettier place.’”

According to his parents, Jamie became something of a workaholic at Fireman Capital, and could only occasionally escape to his getaway home in Landgrove, Vermont, sometimes for a bit of skiing. His main exercise became working out at Racquet Club in Boston. Rosemary points out, however, that he was always a devoted and dutiful son, always ready to drop everything to help out, as, for instance, when she was involved in an accident. When Don asked him why he was working so hard, Jamie responded that he wanted to make a lot of money. “Why do you want to do that? You have enough,” asked Don. Jamie replied, “I want to make a lot so I can give it away.”

As the dreaded ALS disease advanced, Jamie “zeroed in on the Episcopal Church—wanting to leave a lasting legacy,” according to Don. While he was only an occasional church-goer, he nevertheless determined that the church would be one of his major beneficiaries. He started looking at all the Episcopal websites and discovered that Berkeley was the only Episcopal seminary located at a major university. It was Berkeley Trustee Judy Holding (whose husband Bill was a Whiffenpoof with Don at Yale) who helped Dean Andrew McGowan, together with Jamie’s parents, decide how to use the money. And the rest, as they say, is history.

After considering several named endowments, it was decided to name the Jamie Hudson Fund in support of the seniors’ annual trip to Canterbury. Perhaps because his mother is British, Jamie was an Anglophile. The Hudsons have been invited and hope to join a Canterbury pilgrimage in 2018.

How blessed Berkeley is that this angel passed our way. At Berkeley, Jamie has left a truly enduring legacy, a continuing blessing to future generations. We can only give thanks and aspire to be worthy of his generosity.