Published On: January 19th, 2024

There are many people who do good in Cambridge, and then there are people like Mel Hodder, who spent his life pouring his heart into this place.

Melville (Mel) Hodder passed away last fall at age 84, leaving a remarkable legacy of service and generosity to his hometown of over sixty years. We remember Mel for his quick wit and contagious good humor, his wisdom and grace. We also remember him for his steadfast commitment to the Foundation and our work, a commitment that knew no bounds.

As one of the Foundation’s longest serving Board members, Mel dedicated nearly two decades to CCF, including chairing the finance and investment committee for many years. He and his wife Lissa are among our most creative and generous supporters.

“At Mel’s memorial, his children talked about his adventurousness, his love of life and a sense of curiosity that led to a relentless pursuit of his interests, whether it was classical music or skiing, finance or sailing,” said Geeta Pradhan, our president. “It made me understand that Mel’s contributions to the Foundation had that same, passionate spirit. I saw it in the way he went from a board member to committee chair to watching out for the Foundation long after his Board tenure concluded. I saw it in the creative ways in which he gave, whether it was opening a DAF or establishing a scholarship. He also had the foresight to understand that the leadership of an organization needs flexible funds to be creative.”

Under Bob Hurlbut’s leadership of the Foundation, Mel established a fund that could be used at the discretion of the President to take advantage of new opportunities and meet unforeseen needs. Both Bob and Geeta used this ‘special fund’ to amplify the Foundation’s impact in Cambridge. Today the fund is an important, flexible resource for investing in innovative ideas that support pioneering projects, such as Y2Y’s experimental BAY-CASH program for young people experiencing homelessness and an innovative ‘equity audit’ of the Cambridge school district’s budgeting practices.

Before retiring, Mel was Senior Vice President at Morgan Stanley and he brought deep financial expertise to CCF. “Getting idealism, practicality, and deep wisdom in equal measure in one person is uncommon. Mel was that person,” said Rick Harriman, former CCF Board chair.

Mel also lit up meetings with his own special spark of humor.

“One way to describe his presence would be as a wonderful paradox – lighthearted seriousness,” said Rick. “He always took the work seriously, but never took himself too seriously, bringing his humor in a timely manner to discussions on tough issues.”

Mel’s care for his community was genuine, far-reaching, and long-lasting.

“Mel was the model of dedication to the people of Cambridge, especially those in need,” said his neighbor, Jim Roosevelt, a CCF Board member and Trustee. “He never cut back on his activity or service, and it extended over time. He was always willing to serve the community.”

When Mel passed away, his family invited friends to donate to CCF in lieu of flowers. Dozens of people made a gift, inspired by Mel’s memory.

We are tremendously grateful to Mel for his love of Cambridge and service to his community. He will be deeply missed.

Donate here in Mel’s memory.

Read Mel’s obituary here.