Kona philanthropist leaves $122 million endowment
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
Maude Woods Wodehouse, who lived a quiet life as a Big Island rancher, has left an endowment of more than $122 million to benefit several Hawai'i community organizations and schools.
Maude Woods Wodehouse, 87, died July 2 at her Kona home.
Her sister, Alice Gamble, said Wodehouse (pronounced Woodhouse) preferred to remain behind the scenes when she made donations over the years to schools, historic preservations and nature groups.
"She didn't want to take a lot of credit," Gamble said.
Wodehouse, whose maiden name was Ackerman, married Cenric N. Wodehouse in 1934, a year after her graduation from Punahou School. Her husband was a grandson of Victoria Ward. "That's where the bulk of her inheritance came from," said Les Gamble, her brother-in-law and Alice's husband.
Bishop Museum President Bill Brown said her $18 million trust endowment will help ensure that the museum can "preserve the great collections of Hawai'i and the Pacific for which it is home to study them, and to tell their stories to the people of Hawai'i and of the world."
Seabury Hall headmaster Joseph Schmidt confirmed that his school will benefit from an $18 million income-generating fund. Schmidt said Wodehouse had a long connection with the school and had given anonymously before. "It is certainly an incredibly generous philanthropic thing to do," he said.
Nature Conservancy director Suzanne Case said Wodehouse left her organization a trust worth $9 million. Case said she was surprised by the generous bequest even though Wodehouse had donated before.
"She leaves a great legacy that we will all benefit from," Case said. "We're just very, very grateful for her vision and generosity."
Although Wodehouse will likely be remembered for these large donations, Les Gamble said she gave generously for many years to many people, including a $500,000 donation to Kona Hospital and two $25,000 donations to Hospice of Kona.
Doug Philpotts, retired president of Hawaiian Trust Co., had known Wodehouse for more than 20 years and had worked with her. "Maudie was really a gracious lady," Philpotts said. "She had kind of a wonderful sense of humor. She was a delight to work for."
Although she and her husband had no children, they contributed much to education over the years, he said. "Both she and Cen were interested in supporting private education, specifically providing for teachers' salaries at many places."
Les Gamble said Maude and her sister used to play bridge every Thursday. And she lived quietly in a fabulous setting, a 12,000-square-foot French farmhouse designed by renowned architect Vladimir Ossipoff on a 1,500-acre ranch that her husband bought in 1947.
Alice called her sister fun, charming and stubborn. In a sign of the humor she shared with her husband, the two named their ranch Poho Kala, Hawaiian for "no money."
And as generous as she was with others, she spent little on herself, Les Gamble said. "She never spent anything on herself. We used to kid her about it."
Bank of Hawaii's Katherine Anderson is sending out letters to the organizations named by Wodehouse. She said the amounts left in trusts vary and a complete list of the exact amounts of the bequest wasn't yet publicly available.
"This isn't the first of her philanthropic efforts by any means," Anderson said. "She's been incredibly generous for many years, oftentimes, anonymously."
Salvation Army spokesman Daniel De Costa declined to provide details but confirmed "a significant contribution in the form of a trust and the annual earnings are to be used for the operations of the Salvation Army here in Hawai'i."
Reach Robbie Dingeman at email@example.com or 535-2429.