Milton Snavely Hershey was never satisfied to go down in history as a candy-man. The founder of Lancaster Caramel and then his magnum opus, The Hershey Chocolate Company, Hershey also founded the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, explored and lauded the effects of good morale on company productivity, and launched the Milton Hershey School, which today may be the wealthiest individual school in the world.
Hershey credited his wife with the idea for the school. Unable to have children herself, she encouraged him to give poor children a steady, supported kind of upbringing, and so they established their school as a home and school for “poor, healthy, male orphans” aged 8-18 in 1909. It was first founded on the nearly 500-acre farm where Hershey had been raised and opened with 10 students.
Hershey managed his school based on three principles; every student should graduate with a vocation, every student should learn a love of man and God, and every student should learn to bear responsibility. The boys of the school were expected to perform the day-to-day responsibilities of the farm, including maintaining the small dairy there, as well as their educational responsibilities.
When Kitty Hershey passed away in 1915, Hershey gave all of his personal holdings – thousands of acres of property, significant wealth, and controlling interest in the Hershey Chocolate Company – to the school. At the time, that interest was worth approximately $60 million. Hershey remained involved in his school until his death in 1945.
The Milton Hershey School desegregated in 1968 and began allowing female students in 1977. Today, it has approximately two-thousand students, housed in group homes around the school’s massive campus. Older students are place in apartments, with support meant to prepare them for living independently as adults.
Today, the endowment which supports the Milton Hershey School is worth $7.5 billion, making it by far the United States’ most wealthy boarding school, let alone the wealthiest school for needy students.
Photo: The distinctive round Founder’s Hall building at the Milton Hershey School. Credit: George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com