Though lifelong Walpole resident John Hubbard died in August, his legacy endures after several decades of philanthropic pursuits. And after his generous gift to a local land trust, you may see the fruits of those efforts while enjoying a walk in the woods.
This week, the Monadnock Conservancy announced a $1.2 million donation from Hubbard, the largest such gift to the Keene-based organization since it was founded in 1989.
Hubbard, a businessman, and his late wife, Carol, cared deeply for their community, and in making their estate plans, kept those values in mind, according to a news release from the conservancy.
The nonprofit land trust works with landowners and communities to protect natural spaces. It has protected nearly 22,000 acres of forest, farmland, shoreline, wetlands, wildlife habitat and recreation trails across the Monadnock Region.
The organization’s budget changes from year to year, depending on transactions like land purchases, Executive Director Ryan Owens said. Last year, the conservancy’s expense budget was about $1.5 million, and typically ranges between $1.5 and $2 million annually, he said.
The recently announced gift was not the first from the Hubbards. The couple worked with the conservancy since the late ’90s, when the organization expanded its service area to include Walpole and other Connecticut River towns.
“Pretty much as soon as we did that, the relationship started with the Hubbards,” Owens said. “They’ve been strong supporters ever since.”
When the Monadnock Conservancy had Walpole-specific projects — such as protecting particular farms or conserving other open spaces there — the Hubbards made special, larger gifts to make those projects possible, Owens said. Over the years, the couple donated more than $100,000.
John Hubbard grew up in Walpole and, after graduating from the University of New Hampshire, returned to the town to join his family’s poultry-breeding company, Hubbard Farms. The company was established in 1921, and Hubbard continued to work there until his retirement, according to the release. He met Carol in Walpole, where they raised their only daughter, Susan Johnson.
Johnson said the Monadnock Conservancy donation is very much in line with her father’s values. His charitable gifts were primarily focused in three areas: education, children and the environment.
John Hubbard didn’t speak much about an interest in land preservation, but Johnson said his actions spoke loudly enough. In addition to his donations to the Monadnock Conservancy, he purchased land in Walpole and in the village of Drewsville to ensure it wouldn’t be developed.
In describing her parents, Johnson — who moved back to Walpole in 2019 — paints a picture of a fun-loving couple that found a variety of ways to engage with their community. Their lives were packed with traveling, tennis tournaments, ski trips, dinner parties and golden retrievers. Johnson said her mom was involved with the church auxiliary for which she was often baking pies. Her dad was very involved with Hooper Golf Course and served on the board of trustees for Kurn Hattin Homes for Children in Westminster, Vt. Johnson is now a member of that board — “I was very proud to follow in his footsteps,” she said — and said her dad frequently checked in with her as he wanted to stay in the loop.
John Hubbard was also a longtime member of UNH’s Hubbard Award Committee. The award, named for Hubbard’s father, Austin, and uncles Oliver and Leslie, is “the University’s highest honor bestowed upon those whose philanthropic leadership has significantly strengthened the state of New Hampshire, its communities, and the university,” according to the university’s website.
Johnson said her father and other relatives were not the kind of folks who sought recognition for their generosity.
“He was quiet about it, his father was quiet about it as well, kind of a pattern of the Hubbard men,” Johnson said. “They were not demonstrative people — they didn’t want a whole lot made of the donations they made but they felt strongly that they wanted to have an impact.”
The Monadnock Conservancy is writing its next five-year strategic plan this year and will complete that process before deciding how to allocate the Hubbards’ gift, according to the news release. Potential uses include establishing an endowment, conserving more land, or expanding the conservancy’s staff and programs.
“By providing the gift without any specific directives, John and Carol gave us the freedom to make the decision,” Owens said in the release.