Stanford Calderwood

Stanford Calderwood, the Calderwood Charitable Foundation, & The Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing

The Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing began at Wellesley College in the fall of 2013. Named after Stanford Calderwood, the seminars challenge students to communicate more effectively to a wide audience as public writers from a knowledge base in an academic discipline. Mr. Calderwood valued the written word, from his early days working at the Manchester Union Leader, to his generous financial support throughout his life of writers and writing programs.

Stanford Calderwood was educated at the University of Colorado, Boulder. After graduation, he served in the US Navy during World War II. He began his stint as a writer, first as a reporter-photographer and then as a United Press correspondent, before moving on to a long career with the Polaroid Corporation. Starting in advertising, Mr. Calderwood produced the first television advertising for photography, introducing the Polaroid Land Camera on such popular network television shows as the Ed Sullivan Show. Mr. Calderwood worked his way up through the ranks at Polaroid. He was Vice President of Advertising followed by Vice President of Marketing, President of eight different subsidiaries worldwide, and finally Executive Vice President.

As a senior executive at Polaroid, Mr. Calderwood led the company to pledge financial support to various projects at WGBH, the public broadcasting station in Boston. The Polaroid Corporation became an early underwriter of Julia Child’s cooking series. With his own financial success, and a philanthropic spirit, Stanford Calderwood established the Calderwood Charitable Foundation in 1968. Through his foundation, he generously supported the arts, often in honor of his wife, Norma Jean, an Islamic art scholar and collector.

Upon his departure from the Polaroid Corporation in 1970 Mr. Calderwood became the President of WGBH-TV. He served as President for only one year but had a huge impact on public television. While on vacation in London he made a cold call to BBC-2 wanting to bring some of their programs to America. He is reported to have said to their executives, “Look, that old stuff sitting in the can is like a hotel room unsold – it’s worthless. Why not give us some cut prices and use it as a loss leader?” Mr. Calderwood was a great salesman and BBC agreed. Returning home, he knocked on the doors of forty corporations eventually convincing Mobil Corporation to fund this endeavor with a $1 million grant. The result that would span generations brought Masterpiece Theatre to America.

Changing career path yet again, Mr. Calderwood moved into finance, joining a money management group, Endowment Management and Research, owned by Yale University. He also signed on as a visiting lecturer at Wellesley College and on and off, from 1972 to 1985, taught a course called “The Corporation.”  With Stanford Calderwood at the lectern, “The Corporation” became a popular course in the Economics Department. Throughout his time at Wellesley College, he donated generously to the Economics Department with annual gifts.

Stanford Calderwood’s foray into the money management business went extremely well, and in 1981 he bought control of Trinity Investment Management Company, a wealth management company. Under Mr. Calderwood’s leadership, Trinity grew substantially and with over $8.3 billion in assets under management was acquired by Oppenheimer Funds in 1998. As his means grew, Stanford Calderwood was an exceptionally generous benefactor of the arts and education throughout the Boston area. In the name of Norma Jean Calderwood, his foundation endowed the curator of Egyptian Art at the MFA, the curator of Islamic Art at the Harvard Art Museum, courtyards at the Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard’s Fogg Museum, a professorship in Islamic Art at Boston College, and Directorships at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Cambridge Art Association. In his own name, he endowed a studio for writers at a New Hampshire retreat for writers and artists, the MacDowell Colony. He also endowed the Directorship of the Boston Athenaeum and supported its writing program.

Stanford Calderwood passed away in May of 2002 at the age of 81. Before his death, he had time to direct one more substantial gift to the Huntington Theater to endow the artistic directorship at the theater in honor of his wife and to support playwriting of new American plays. Since his death, the Calderwood Charitable Foundation has carried out Mr. Calderwood’s wishes with grants of more than $90 million in support of the arts and writing.

The strong value Stan Calderwood placed on writing is part of his legacy, and so when Wellesley College approached the Foundation for financial support of the Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing it was a natural fit. In 1999, Mr. Calderwood provided initial funding for a Professorship in Economics at Wellesley. That funding agreement states “in support of this Professorship, Wellesley College will make every effort to offer a course on writing in the field of economics, either through the Department of Economics or the Writing Program.”  David Lindauer, the first and current holder of the Stanford Calderwood Professor of Economics, offered a course, Economic Journalism that honored the agreement perfectly. In 2011, Wellesley College presented the idea to the foundation for a suite of capstone seminar courses using the pedagogical methods Professor Lindauer developed and successfully demonstrated in Economic Journalism. Not only did the foundation embrace the idea for Wellesley College, they recognized the possibility of replication at other colleges and universities.

The Calderwood Charitable Foundation enthusiastically funded the Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing at Wellesley College and the first courses were offered in the fall of 2013. The program expanded rapidly and after five years 18 new seminars had been introduced from across the disciplines. Today, about 15 percent of a graduating class is completing a Calderwood Seminar. Evaluations of the program document its uniqueness and the significant impact these seminars have on students. With a focus solely on writing to communicate to a wider audience, not on mastering new academic material, students emerge from the courses prepared to communicate effectively in their field of interest.

Bearing witness to the success of the Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing at Wellesley College, the foundation funded expansion of the program to other colleges and universities, with the first course offerings beginning in the spring of 2018. As of this writing, five other institutions of higher education – Amherst, Bard, Georgetown, Middlebury and Wesleyan – are planning to introduce Calderwood Seminars of their own based on the approach developed at Wellesley. In approving the grant to expand the Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing program, John Cornish, a Trustee of the Calderwood Charitable Foundation, remarked, “I know that Stan would be pleased to have his name associated with it.”

Karen Cronin & David L. Lindauer
Wellesley College
March 2018