June 21, 2018
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A tale of two citizens

By Robin Clifford Wood, Special to the BDN

Last month, at their high school graduation, seven Winterport students received $1,000 apiece from a man who died before they were born. Hulbert Tripp was a Winterporter who made a fortune, believed deeply in the importance of education and never forgot his Maine roots. Sadly, most of the 83 recipients of Hulbert’s scholarship money have never heard of him.

90-year-old Teddy Weston would like to change that.

“People don’t even know about the scholarship, and it is such a huge and wonderful gift, especially for such a small town,” Teddy said.

As archivist for Winterport’s historical society, Teddy is a staunch advocate for preserving the memory of influential events and people. She also admired Hulbert, a shy and humble man who never sought recognition for his great generosity. With letters, news articles, photographs and her own recollections, Teddy told me a bit of Hulbert’s story.

Hulbert was born in Prospect, Maine in 1908. His family moved to Winterport, where Hulbert received all of his schooling except for one year. Mr. Tripp died in a freak accident, overcome by fumes in a cider vinegar factory where he worked as an engineer, so Hulbert and his mother moved to Auburn to live with Hulbert’s sister. He finished his senior year there at Edward Little High School.

Hulbert went on to Harvard University, then New York University’s business school, after which he began his rise to quiet preeminence as an investor. During his 29 years managing investments for the University of Rochester, that institution’s investment portfolio increased by seven times, from $54 million to $375 million, making it one of the six largest endowment funds in the country.

Hulbert opened his own investment firm after retiring from U of R. He dedicated his time to dozens of boards and charitable causes, with a particular bias towards education. His wife once said, “He felt that education was the salvation of the world.”

Although he never moved back to Maine, he fondly remembered his childhood in Winterport. Teddy Weston showed me some 1989 letters from Hulbert, during a time when she was working to create a plaque with the names of Tripp scholarship recipients. Hulbert’s humor, humility and warmth come through in his writing.

“Thank you for your thoughtful letter. My secretary is on vacation. She does my filing and my thinking. I will have the material within two weeks. I really do appreciate this proposed action.”

In his letters, Hulbert recalls working for 10 cents an hour in Les Downs’ hayfields and fondly remembers the old meeting house, perched on a hill over Main Street.

“My nostalgia connects with the fact that I used to ski down the upper corner slope into the street — at that time it was safe.”

Hulbert’s feelings for Winterport are keenly expressed in a letter to Teddy, written in May of 1989, a year before his death:

“When I was a sophomore in Winterport High School I gave a two-page report on the history of Winterport at the old Town Hall. The only thing I remember about it was [saying] that there was only one Winterport in the whole world and a letter addressed in that manner would eventually reach Winterport, Maine. I don’t know where I got my information, but currently with zip codes and dead letter boxes my old statement seems rather far-fetched. However, to me there is still only one Winterport.”

In terms of the plaque and scholarship details, he chose the title to commemorate his parents (one reason why his name is unknown by recipients): “The Alice & Wallis Tripp Memorial Scholarship Fund.” The award is given “on the basis of … scholarship, financial need, potential, and personality, no one of such factors being necessarily considered dominant.”

As of 1989, after 25 years, the fund had awarded about $40,000. Twenty-two years later, estimates put the total well over $100,000. Hulbert also made contributions to several town initiatives, restorations and improvements over the years. That kind of dedication and generosity, said Teddy Weston, that should not go unrecognized.

To me, this is a story of dedication on the part of two people. Teddy’s tireless efforts to preserve Hulbert’s memory and generosity are another act of community spirit worthy of note. Our small Maine towns have a way of creeping into our hearts and holding on. Lucky for us, people like Teddy and Hulbert do the same in return — they find the heartbeat of a town and see to it that the heart keeps on beating.

This year’s recipients of the Alice and Willis Tripp Memorial Scholarship are Wyatt Bisbee, Jasmine Breen, Elena Cravens, Molly Howe, Kaylee LeCavalier, Erica Marsters and Daniel Smith.

Robin Clifford Wood welcomes feedback and suggestions at robin.everyday@gmail.com.

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