Donor Spotlight: Major Wheelock

Editor’s note: As many supporters as we have around the state (thousands!) we all value the humanities for different reasons. In each issue of Engage! we like to introduce you to someone who supports our work and inspires us – and may inspire you, too!

“When you invest in the humanities, you are raising the intellectual capacity of the entire citizenry. This principle of thought is why I continue to give to New Hampshire Humanities, despite being retired and no longer living in the state.”  ~ Major Wheelock

Major Wheelock has been involved in numerous state organizations to promote a happier, healthier, and well-educated community. He has served as board chair of the New Hampshire Hospital Association and New Hampshire Humanities (NHH), executive vice president and treasurer of Franklin Pierce College, and president of the NH Association for Mental Health and the NH Social Welfare Council.

What initially motivated you to become involved with New Hampshire Humanities?
I always had a strong interest in what was happening in the community. It was forty years ago, so I don’t remember who approached me about serving on the board. I did attend some programs at my library and found them interesting and beneficial. The Humanities to Go programming offered free of charge at libraries and other local venues is still one of the best parts of the work New Hampshire Humanities does, from my perspective.

What are examples of your proudest accomplishments during your time at NHH?
One of the best things I had a hand in was the hiring of Charlie Bickford as executive director. He was a terrific person who led NHH to take on a much larger role within the state. He was just the perfect guy for the job. There is also the NHH funding of one of Ken Burns’ first documentaries, The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God. I remember he was just a spare young man, with his wife and child accompanying him. There were only a few Shaker elders left, and he felt that the opportunity to interview them might be lost in the near future. He spoke so persuasivly, despite his youthful appearance, that we were convinced and decided to fund the project.

You served on the NHH board during the 1980s. How has the organization changed since then, and how has the way we as a community relate to the humanities changed?
I feel like NHH is now a stronger force for the humanities and that there is more awareness of the humanities overall. I can remember getting calls from people about stray animals – they thought we were the humane society! We had to explain that a couple of times.

What is the impact of NHH’s programs? What would you tell someone who was considering making a gift?
People living in Nashua or Concord have access to a whole variety of activities, but if you live in Dublin or another small town you may not have the same opportunities. New Hampshire Humanities helps the libraries in these towns satisfy the their community’s thirst for knowledge. I still get your newsletter and am delighted to see the programs offered all around the state. The more people exposed to humanities programming, the more people are excited by it and want to know more. When you invest in the humanities, you are raising the intellectual capacity of the entire citizenry. This principle of thought is why I continue to give to New Hampshire Humanities, despite being retired and no longer living in the state. I want to remember the organizations that I feel provide a worthy service, and New Hampshire Humanities is among those.

We couldn’t agree more! Thank you, Major Wheelock.