Len Hershoff

Ripple Effects of a WPI Education

“A quality education can affect the trajectory of your life,” says Larry Hershoff, son of the late Len Hershoff ’43. He experienced firsthand the positive impact a WPI education had on his father’s life.

“WPI set into motion a lot of things personally, academically, and professionally that allowed my dad to provide for his family,” Larry says, “and he believed in giving back.”

Len Hershoff is described by his son as “a mechanical genius” when he was a young man graduating near the top of his high school class in Brockton, Mass. Len was accepted to WPI, but the tuition was out of reach, despite the family’s efforts. Thanks to a $200-per-year scholarship from the university, Len graduated with his bachelor’s in electrical engineering.

Larry shares that his father became a vacuum tube expert, worked in the High Voltage Research Laboratory at MIT and at the Lahey Clinic doing cancer radiation research, and then had positions at several companies before settling at IBM in 1964. The generous employee stock purchase program at IBM enabled Len to build his wealth, Larry says, and he always credited WPI for preparing him for his career and life.

“You couldn’t spend five minutes with my dad without him talking about WPI,” says Larry.

Andrea Johnson, Len’s daughter, adds that her father’s support of WPI was never in question. “He really felt a strong connection and credited WPI for his success, and he wanted to give back.”

The Hershoff family

Andrea Johnson, with Larry and Len Hershoff

She remembers her father talking about the Rope Pull at Institute Park, his fraternity experience, and the social life during his WPI years. “He couldn’t say enough about it.”

After graduation, Len maintained his WPI ties. He participated in WPI committees and attended events. He was a regular at Tech Old Timers, the monthly group meeting for retired WPI alumni, faculty, and staff, and he brightened every Alden Society Luncheon and Alumni Weekend with his gregarious personality. Len never forgot the scholarship that made possible his WPI education, his career, and his ability to support his family and provide for his children’s educations, and so he always supported his alma mater.

“He never had a big income, but he was always careful with his money, and WPI was a big part of his budget,” Andrea explains. “He did it because of his dedication.”

When his father neared retirement, Larry talked with him about alternatives in his estate planning. They decided to set up a charitable gift annuity and a charitable remainder trust, funded primarily with IBM stock and other investments, to ensure Len would have adequate income “while partially repaying WPI for the $200 bet it made on Dad in 1940.”

We’re all custodians of what’s happening at the university today, and the university can’t do those things without the support of the community and its alumni.

These planned gifts enabled the establishment of the Len ’43 and Mary Hershoff Scholarship Fund, which, with additions from the Hershoff family, has grown to provide $15,000 per year to a WPI undergraduate to help them achieve their WPI education. Larry recently made a sizeable commitment to the fund by supporting Beyond These Towers: The Campaign for WPI, with the aim of one day providing a half-tuition scholarship. Removing financial barriers to a WPI education is a major thrust of the campaign.

Larry explains that his father’s motivation to give back to his alma mater was rooted in the Jewish tradition of tzedakah—charity to others to make the world a better place.

“Charity to others is frequently repaid in one way or another,” he says.

That’s certainly how Larry feels about the scholarship his father received. Larry, a Clark University graduate along with Andrea, credits his education to his father’s success and the preparation he received at WPI. “My father was very generous to me, and he would not have been able to do all the things he did in his life without WPI,” says Larry, who emphasizes the ripple effect that scholarship support at WPI often has. Supporting one student, he says, can positively impact that student’s future family for generations, just as it did for his father, himself, and his sister.

Reflecting on his father’s WPI experience and his own experience at Clark as a graduate, volunteer, and former trustee, Larry notes the responsibility he feels as the son of a WPI graduate.

“The journey doesn’t end with your graduation from the institution—it gets boosted, because you still carry the university’s name,” he explains. “We’re all custodians of what’s happening at the university today, and the university can’t do those things without the support of the community and its alumni.”

Curt ’67 and Dudley Carlson Curt and Dudley Carlson

Curt ’67 and Dudley Carlson

Curtis Carlson '67 and his wife, Dudley, focus their philanthropy on value creation and innovation. They believe WPI is a unique university, providing the education today's graduates need to thrive.

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