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The M.S. Hershey Foundation

Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
The Foundation served as a conduit for a $50 million transfer of funds to create the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Aerial, 1967

Providing for the youth of Derry Township was an enduring passion for Milton Hershey throughout his life. During the Depression he realized that jobs were limited and young men and women just graduating from high school had limited opportunities for employment. In 1935, in response to this need, Milton Hershey established The M.S. Hershey Foundation, endowing it with 5000 shares of Hershey Chocolate Corporation stock. Its charter stated that the purpose of the Foundation was to provide educational and cultural opportunities for the citizens of Derry Township. Initially the funds generated by the Foundation Trust were used to defray some of the expenses of the Derry Township Public Schools.

Hershey Junior College

In 1938, three years after the Foundation was established, the Hershey Junior College opened, offering tuition free higher education to all Derry Township residents and employees of the Hershey corporations. Housed in the Community Building, the Junior College maintained high academic standards and helped hundreds of Hershey residents receive a college education. Rising costs, an inadequate facility and the establishment of the Harrisburg Area Community College led to the closing of the Hershey Junior College in 1965.

Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

During the 1950s, the Milton Hershey School Trust accumulated a large surplus of income. Seeking a way to best use this money, Samuel Hinkle, President of the Hershey Chocolate Corporation and a director of the Hershey Trust Company Board, proposed using the money for the “construction, operation and endowment of a medical center.” On August 23, 1963, The M.S. Hershey Foundation served as the conduit for a $50 million gift from the Milton Hershey School Trust to Pennsylvania State University for a medical school and teaching hospital known as The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Breaking ground on February 26, 1966, the Medical Center was dedicated June 5, 1971. The Medical Center replaced the old Hershey Hospital in providing medical services to the community.

Hershey Educational and Cultural Center

Concurrently with the work on the Medical Center, the Foundation recognized the need for a Hershey institution to provide educational opportunities to complement formal educational institutions. On May 1, 1966, the Hershey Educational and Cultural Center was established to create educational opportunities for the people of Hershey and the surrounding area. At the same time, the Foundation established a separate corporation, The Hershey Recreation Center. Established in part to administer the programs of the newly built Cocoa Plaza, the Hershey Recreation Center offered a sports and recreation program. The activities of the Hershey Recreation Center were assumed by the Derry Township Board of Supervisors when Cocoa Plaza was given to the Township in 1979.

Expanding the Foundation’s Mission

Continuing its mission to provide cultural and educational opportunities to the Hershey community, the Foundation, under the umbrella of the Hershey Educational and Cultural Center, assumed operation of the Hershey Theatre in 1970. Those same goals also led the Foundation to accept responsibility for the Hershey Museum in 1981 and the Hershey Gardens in 1989. As part of the Foundation, the Hershey Museum and Gardens gained non-profit status, enabling them to accept donations and apply for grants. Motivated by similar goals, the Hershey Community Archives was established in 1984 as a cooperative project of the Foundation and the Hershey enterprises. In 1990, the Foundation accepted ownership and responsibility for the new Chocolatetown Square, a community park located in the heart of downtown Hershey. The Square offers a varied menu of programming for the Hershey community during the summer months.

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