Western alum donates largest gift ever to faculty of arts and humanities

William (Bill) Hodgins, BA'54, bequeathed $10 million to Western to support scholarships in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities (David Phelps, Architectural Digest © Condé Nast)

A Western University graduate who went on to become a well-known figure in interior design has left several million in scholarships for students of the university’s faculty of arts and humanities.

William ‘Bill’ Hodgins graduated from Western with a Bachelor of Arts in 1954. He passed away in September 2019 and in his death, Western University officials say he bestowed the school with a $10-million donation, the faculty’s largest gift to date, that will fund 16 scholarships each year, in perpetuity.

“In these uncertain and rapidly changing times, humanities graduates bring empathy, imagination, perspective, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills to the table,” said Western’s president Alan Shepherd. “Bill’s generosity will open doors for students with diverse interests and backgrounds to pursue their passion and create positive change in the world.”

A release from Western explained that Hodgins’ donation is in honour of his mother Neen, who was unable to pursue her dream of studying English at Western because she couldn’t afford it. Instead, she worked to ensure it could be an option for her son.

Over a decade ago, Hodgins made a donation that was able to help more than 90 English students at Western. This donation will extend to students across all arts and humanities programs through additional merit and needs-based scholarships.

“Hodgins’ bequest will generate $560,000 every year to support scholarships across the spectrum, helping high-achieving, first-generation, Indigenous and international students with financial need through entrance, continuing and graduate awards,” a release from the university read.

Hodgins was the first in his family to attend university and during his time at Western as an English major, he was a cheerleader and a member of the Purple Spur Spirit Club.

After graduating from Western, Hodgins went to England, where he worked for a British ambassador. He lived in France for some time before returning to Canada to work for the Hudson Bay Company in a management training program, and then in Montreal, designing brochures for Avon cosmetics.

At the age of 30, Hodgins attended the Parsons School of Design in New York and he graduated with honours in 1963. From there, he moved to Boston and became the president and owner of William Hodgins Inc., an interior design firm focused exclusively on residential design. His clients included American ambassadors and a Saudi prince.

In 1987, his success got him inducted into Interior Design’s Hall of Fame, he was also recognized as a designer of distinction by the American Society of Interior Designers.

Western said it plans to mark his donation with a celebration of the arts and humanities. The university said it will also name an outdoor study space in front of University College as a lasting memorial to Hodgins’ generous gift.

Scholarships funded by the estate of William Hodgins are as follow:

• Neen Hodgins International President’s Entrance Scholarship: 1 at $80,000 ($20,000 per year for four recipients).

• Neen Hodgins Entrance Scholarship: one at $80,000 ($20,000 per year for four recipients).

• Neen Hodgins Continuing Admission Scholarship: six at $ 5,000, continuing for four years.

• Neen Hodgins Indigenous Continuing Admissions Scholarship: one at $10,000 continuing for four years.

• Neen Hodgins Graduating Scholarship: one at $2,000.

The funds will also support the Neen Hodgins Award and the Neen Hodgins Bursary.