Alumni and Development News

Hutch Hodgson '61 brings business acumen and Southern flair to Alumni Council

After twenty-four years of living abroad, R. Hutchins Hodgson '61 was ready to come home. "I wanted to join a church, join the Rotary, and generally just have a normal life," he says in his soft southern drawl. "I was traveling 85 percent of the time, and I felt a need to settle."

Hodgson joined Coca Cola Corporation soon after his graduation from Kenyon. Upon earning an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, he spent a short time in Chicago, Illinois, before accepting management positions in Canada, South Africa, England, Belgium, France, and Hong Kong. Although Hodgson received news of the College, involvement in Kenyon activities was not feasible.

His bond to the College was strong, though. As a student, he played football and lacrosse and served as president of his junior and senior classes. A 1999 Kenyon Athletic Association Hall of Fame inductee, he is modest about his accomplishments. "I was lucky to be born large," he says with a chuckle. However, it was more than just being born large that earned him eight varsity letters, four in each sport, or that earned him selection as Most Valuable Player on the football team. And it wasn't being born large that placed him among the nation's top twenty-five lacrosse players in 1961 after switching from defense to offense. Co-captain of both teams in his junior and senior years, Hodgson contributed leadership skills as well as athletic ability.

Returning to the states in 1985, Hodgson and his family settled first in Savannah. "I had a notion about having my own business, but I really didn't have a clue as to what it would be," he says. For four months he did research. A tip from a cousin in Hilton Head, South Carolina, led him to Heavenly Ham, whose owners were looking for someone to invest in and operate the business. Hodgson says that one taste of the product convinced him. "It is really the best ham I've ever had," he confesses. All of the ham was then, and still is now, baked by an old family-owned German company in Chicago. It takes eighteen hours from start to finish, working in batches of eleven hundred, to produce the finished product.

Within a year of taking control of the business, Hodgson expanded Heavenly Ham to eleven stores. Growth was steady, and in 1992, the company was rated the number one franchiser in its industry by Entrepreneur magazine's Thirteenth Annual Franchise 500. There are currently 200 Heavenly Ham stores in thirty statesone of the newest being in Mansfield, Ohio, not too far from Gambier. Along the way, Hodgson moved the headquarters to Atlanta, where he now lives with his family.

After years of working within the giant corporate structure of Coke, Hodgson relishes being at the top of his own company. "It is fun to get deeply involved," he says. "Finding good franchisees is a challenge and there are days when I feel more like a psychologist than a franchise salesman." The organization provides thorough training and support for its store owners. "We tell them they are on their own but not alone," says Hodgson.

While building his successful franchise enterprise, Hodgson was putting down roots and reestablishing relationships. Over the years, his most consistent source of information about Kenyon was his good friend, fellow economics major, and fellow member of Beta Theta Pi, Patterson "Pete" Travis. "Pete was just a great class agent," says Hodgson. "He is the one who really got me reconnected to the College. After his untimely death in 1997, I agreed to take on the job of class agent, with Dave Brown as my co-agent." Last year, Hodgson accepted the invitation to be a candidate for Alumni Council. "The timing was right and I thought, why not?" he says.

Hodgson is obviously a busy man, and he recognizes that other people are busy, too. As a Council member, he would like to work on ways to get people involved in Kenyon activities, especially things that benefit the College, despite their fully booked lives. Another area of interest is how to get more students from the South to attend Kenyon. "Having been unsuccessful in getting any of my own kids to do this, I expect I have an uphill battle," he says.

Despite having passed up Kenyon, Hodgson's children have made him proud. His daughter, Dorothy, is a professor of sociocultural anthropology at Rutgers University, and son Edward is self-employed in health-care insurance. Daniel, a senior in high school, is headed to Vanderbilt University in the fall. That leaves thirteen-year-old Ben, who is following in his father's footsteps as a lacrosse player, as a potential candidate for the College.

Hodgson is not interested in encouraging his children to follow him into the ham business. "I'm doing what I love and enjoy," he says. "I hope they'll do the same."

Council issues call for nominations

The Alumni Council invites you to suggest one or more candidates for election to the Council for a three-year term or to the Board of Trustees for a four-year term commencing in 2002. You may nominate a friend, a classmate, or yourself.

Please send the nomination and supporting information to Lisa Dowd Schott '80, executive director of alumni and parent relations and annual funds, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio 43022-9623, by July 2, 2001.

All suggestions receive careful consideration by the Alumni Council. Alumni Council and Alumni Trustee positions are an important part of the Kenyon alumni activity.

Alumni Council members look forward to hearing from you and to receiving your nominations for the Alumni Council or Board of Trustees.

The circle of life brings Jill Korosec Dennis '92 back to Gambier and Kenyon

"The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where Power moves."

--Black Elk, Oglala Sioux, from the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Alexander Brown

Everything comes full circle," says Jill Korosec Dennis '92. "Being back at Kenyon now feels like a completed journey." Dennis returned to the Hill in October 2000 to assume the duties of assistant director in the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations and Annual Funds (APRAF).

A native of Chesterland, Ohio, Dennis entered the College with a fistful of SCAP credits from the Laurel School and a passion for cross-country running. A runner from the tender age of ten, she competed at Kenyon for four years, serving as captain in her senior year.

In addition to participating in athletics and pursuing her studies in psychology, Dennis found time for work with the Student-Alumni Association and as an admissions office host. Her pleasure in working with alumni and parents in these two capacities led her to a summer job in APRAF following graduation.

Dennis's service to the College might have continued after summer's end, but she wanted to fulfill a long-term aspiration, and that involved travel. "From early childhood, one of my dad's goals for my brother and me was for us to visit every single state," she says. "And we couldn't merely be in the airport for it to count. We had to spend some time and do an activity in that state. My visit to Alaska in 1992 was made all the more exciting by it being the fiftieth state."

Upon returning from Alaska, Dennis joined her then fiancé, Jeff Dennis, in Georgia. "We both had lived in Ohio all our lives, and we wanted to try a place that was different," she explains. Her experience of the beauty of rural life while on long cross-country training runs through the Ohio countryside around Gambier had planted the notion of living close to the land, a notion that was shared by Jeff, a native of Mount Vernon. They purchased On Point Farm, which included sixty acres, in Box Springs, Georgia, and became farmers, though both worked daily off the farm.

"We raised coastal Bermuda hay, and we did the whole process from cutting to raking to drying and baling," she says. "It was wonderful to watch the big bales come out of the huge Pacman-looking machine, all tightly bound with twine." The farm was also home to lots of animals: Limosin cattle, several kinds of chickens, two Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, and lots of dogs. The Dennises love to bird hunt (Jill is a crack shot), so they had retrievers and pointers as well as two catahoula leopard dogs.

Dennis returned to Kenyon in 1996, this time for her wedding. "With Jeff's family in Mount Vernon and mine in nearby Chesterland, it seemed a natural thing to have the wedding in the Church of the Holy Spirit," she says. "The College means so much to me, and I wanted Jeff to experience it with me." The wedding, a true Kenyon affair, was performed by Rev. David S. Sipes '57, an Episcopal priest, with music by soloist Benjamin R. Locke, the James and Cornelia Ireland Professor of Music; harpist Janet Thompson, adjunct instructor of music; and organist Stan Osborn.

The birth of Hudson Kenneth Dennis in February 2000 prompted the Dennises to move back to Ohio to be near helpful grandparents. For Jill, it was back to Kenyon as well.

As assistant director in APRAF, Dennis is in charge of off-campus regional planning across the country. She travels to the thirty cities where the College has its largest concentrations of alumni to present programs that bring Kenyon to those who can't get back to Gambier. "I love going out and meeting alumni in their home cities," she says. "And, in many cases, I'm revisiting cities that I visited as a child on all those trips to different states, so there's the added benefit of seeing an old place from a new perspective.

"One of the programming ideas we're developing for next year," says Dennis, "is a focus on life-long learning, a concept to which President Oden is very committed. A seminar led by a faculty member would be the main feature of the alumni event. It would give alumni a sense of what is happening in the classroom and a chance to take part in some meaty discussion."

Dennis is still enamored of the rural life. She and Jeff purchased a ninety-three-acre farm on Fry Road in Mount Vernon that includes an 1873 farm house and two barns.

"It's too big for us to farm alone," she says, "so we'll lease some of the acreage. We sold all our animals in Georgia, but we hope to begin adding livestock next year."

Results of Alumni Ballot announced

Results of the 2001 Alumni Ballot have now been tallied. The new alumni trustees and Alumni Council members were formally welcomed at the annual Alumni Awards Luncheon on May 26.

Elected to four-year terms as alumni trustees are Marcia Barr Abbot '73 of Greenwich Connecticut, and William Russell '62 P'91 of St. Charles, Illinois. Abbot, a psychotherapist in private practice, is a former member of Alumni Council and chair of the Kenyon Fund. Russell, a regional vice president with Advance Capital Management, is a former president of Alumni Council and also a former Kenyon Fund chair. Both have been active in the "Claiming Our Place" campaign.

Elected to terms as Alumni Council members are Richard Alper '71 of Bethesda, Maryland, Tana Barton '95 of Chicago, Illinois, Edward Benyon '91 of Houston, Texas, and Martin McKerrow '64 of New York City. An attorney and teacher, Alper has been an admissions, career-network, phonathon, and reunion-planning volunteer. Barton, a human resources asociate with the Gateway Foundation, has served as president of the Chicago association and as an admissions, career-network, and phon-athon volunteer. A teacher and coordinator of the Middle-Upper School at the Briarwood School, Benyon has been a regional association president and reunion chair. McKerrow, a managing director of Neuberger and Berman, has been an admissions and career-network volunteer and a member of the leadership gifts committee for the "Claiming Our Place" campaign.

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