Milton S. Hershey Gave His Fortune to Impact Thousands
On Nov. 11, 1918, crowds loudly paraded through city streets across the world to celebrate the end of World War I. Peace after four years of fighting brought new hope for America and other countries involved. Two days later, a chocolate maker in the small town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, quietly made a decision that would forever improve the lives of children looking for greater opportunities.
On Nov. 13, 1918, Milton S. Hershey placed the bulk of his fortune—5,000 shares of the Hershey Chocolate Company equity stock—in a trust for the school. Hershey Industrial School, what is now called Milton Hershey School, began as a shared vision and dream between Mr. Hershey and his wife, Catherine. Unable to have children of their own, the Hersheys decided to use their wealth to create a home and school for orphaned boys.
News of Mr. Hershey’s gift did not garner public attention until five years later when it was picked up by the media, and then a dollar amount was assigned to the shares. The earliest article in the school’s archives, published in the Harrisburg Evening News on Nov. 8, 1923, featured the headline, “$60,000,000 Gift Confirmed.”
An article in The New York Times the next day and a subsequent full-page article in the Sunday edition on Nov. 18, 1923, brought great attention to the school and small community of Hershey, Pennsylvania. In addition to national magazine publications, people in towns large and small, from New York City to Los Angeles, learned about Mr. Hershey’s generosity from their local newspapers.
An article in McClure’s magazine highlighted in his own words Mr. Hershey’s desire to help children:
“I never could see what happiness a rich man gets from contemplating a life of acquisition only, with the cold and legal distribution of his money after he is gone. For myself, would I find any further zest in accumulating wealth? No, but now I am more interested than ever in maintaining and improving the morale and efficiency of all my companies. I want to devote the rest of my life to that end, for the school.”
A Town Powered by Chocolate
The connection Mr. Hershey created among the companies he founded still exists. Known within the “family” as the Hershey entities, these companies support MHS financially through corporate profits and by giving their time to mentor and educate students.
We unite in the vision of our shared founder and are inspired to carry forward his biggest dream through MHS: nurturing and educating children in social and financial need to lead fulfilling and productive lives. Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, The Hershey Company, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the M.S. Hershey Foundation, and Hershey Trust Company nurture relationships with our students through internships, job shadowing, and more.
Chocolate unites our town and community. It opens up a world of new experiences and opportunity for low-income families.
MHS alumni see chocolate as a sweet part of their story. “Chocolate is a piece of who I am. It is a beautiful representation of a man and woman who opened a world of possibilities for me,” said MHS alumna, Katie Muir ’18. “And today, it is an opportunity to make sure that their legacy and the gift of education they’ve provided can live on forever.”
A Living Legacy
At MHS, we advance the Hersheys’ vision and help students thrive by building a foundation of life skills. MHS provides an exceptional educational experience and a stable home life for more than 2,000 children each year. It was important to Mrs. Hershey that students have a safe home life experience including clothing and social and emotional learning.
The MHS whole child approach to education meets all educational, physical, social, and emotional needs of its students. In fact, MHS nurtures the same qualities in its students that made Mr. Hershey a good businessman and generous philanthropist.
Today, MHS has more than 11,000 graduates. Mr. Hershey’s gift has certainly lived on to provide life-changing opportunities to children and families.
In 2020, MHS expanded its impact when it announced the creation of Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning, a subsidiary of MHS. CHS provides a cost-free educational, social, and cognitive day program to children from low-income families. Its Early Childhood Education Centers are located in Pennsylvania. In October 2023, CHS opened its first center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and now serves 150 children from six weeks to age five.
Help Us Celebrate the Sweet Gift that Changed Lives
Each November marks a significant month for Milton Hershey School as we celebrate our founding and the anniversary of Mr. Hershey’s gift to fund the school. Do you know a child who could benefit from attending MHS? You can learn more at mhskids.org or by attending a Virtual Open House, an online opportunity to meet with our regional admissions recruiters and ask questions live. Or, if you’re ready—apply now.
Ready to make a lasting impact by mentoring, supporting, and encouraging youth? MHS also hires married couples to become houseparents. Interested couples can learn more about full- and part-time houseparent roles by visiting the MHS website or attending an Online Information Session, a virtual opportunity to discuss the role in detail and ask questions live with recruiters. Or, if you’re ready—apply now.