In Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote: “The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening.” Like Thoreau, the late Richard L. Hatch spent a lifetime reaching toward the sublime. Even after his passing he continues to surprise and astound those around him with the breadth and depth of his generosity.
Perhaps best known for his longtime philanthropy in the fields of medicine and higher education—Maine Medical Center’s Hatch Pavilion, Bowdoin College’s Hatch Science Library, Yale University, Duke University and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, among others—Mr. Hatch also was a man of the land. He and his late wife, Rakia, protected their cherished Maine coast by donating thousands of acres to the Nature Conservancy and other organizations in order to preserve it for generations to come. He knew every inch of that land, and shared it with his community.
The ocean, too, captured Mr. Hatch’s imagination. As an advocate for the ocean, and with an eye toward the delicate balance between the coast and its development, Mr. Hatch ensured that the rich clam flats just off his property, some of Maine’s finest, remain open to the public forever. More than 45 years ago, he gave his first gift to WHOI with a brief yet meaningful note: “My motivation is none other than an increasing interest in marine research and a respect for the efforts which your institution is making in this field.” Becoming a Life Associate in 1966, he remained a loyal supporter of WHOI’s work around the world until his passing in 2009.
His final gift to WHOI, an unexpected multi-million dollar bequest, helps continue Mr. Hatch’s stewardship of his beloved ocean. Unrestricted gifts like his are the venture funds of research; they support innovative ideas and creative people studying everything from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and receding glaciers in the North Atlantic, to the next generation of promising ocean scientists.
Richard Hatch set a strong example for generosity and foresight with his philanthropy. Now we who remain must ensure that his investment in ocean science pays dividends in discovery for many years to come.