For more than 65 years, Henry H. Hobbs dedicated his life to the ministry of others. His passion for service, particularly to people with mental illness, guided among other efforts, his many gifts, including to the UNC School of Social Work. With a degree in English from Carolina, Hobbs loved UNC and he and his wife Sandy generously supported the University and especially, the education of social workers, for the last 20 years.
Since Henry’s death nearly three years ago, Sandy has considered the various ways her family might continue to support the work of the School and honor her husband’s legacy. The Henry and Sandra Hobbs Endowed Scholarship Fund aims to do just that. The fund, created from a planned gift of $1.7 million, will be used to support the tuition and fees of MSW students, especially those scholars who strengthen the social, economic, and cultural diversity of the school’s student body.
Dean Gary Bowen praised the generous gift, which he said will strengthen the School’s ability to recruit and provide more financial support to MSW students of color. Moreover, the funding will enable the School to educate practitioners to work with and advocate for communities that are disenfranchised, marginalized and underserved.
“With Sandy’s latest kind and generous support, the School will be in an even stronger position to educate social workers to uplift and support individuals and families through culturally sensitive, socially just, racially equitable, and anti-oppressive advocacy and practice,” Bowen said.
For Henry Hobbs, the desire to serve communities in need heavily influenced his decision to become an ordained minister, his wife said. His journey began shortly after WWII when Hobbs, a veteran with the Air Force’s 104th Bomber Squadron, enrolled in Carolina to pursue his dreams of becoming a writer.
He graduated in 1950 and with aspirations of writing the great American novel, packed his bags for New York. However, he quickly found a higher calling after befriending members of a local clergy who were working to assist those with mental illness. At the time, New York, like many other states across the country, was closing its public mental hospitals and patients were being released without any formal plan for rehousing.
“That really aroused his passion to do something about that,” recalled Sandy Hobbs, who lives in Port Chester, N.Y. “Henry’s heart always leaned toward doing things for others and making other people’s lives better.”
After graduating from Union Theological Seminary, Hobbs was appointed an ordained United Methodist minister in the Bronx, where he and his congregation helped build a day care center that continues to serve more than 200 children today. By the late 1970s, Hobbs had moved to Port Chester, N.Y., to serve as a pastor and continue his activism, including efforts to increase affordable and equitable housing opportunities for many Black and Latino families in the community where he lived.
This work would eventually expand with Hobbs co-founding a nonprofit group that provided housing and supportive services for individuals with mental illness and the homeless. The agency continues to thrive today, serving thousands of clients in Westchester County, N.Y.
Over the years, Sandy worked closely with her husband to serve and strengthen the communities around them. They shared a love for the Tar Heels and always enjoyed visiting the Chapel Hill campus. Although neither had any direct ties to the School of Social Work, the couple followed the School’s progress as a nationally recognized institution and admired its mission to graduate practitioners and researchers prepared to address intransigent social problems, Sandy said.
The family’s planned gift is a way to ensure this work continues, she added.
“Henry always felt a connection to this School because the students were doing the work he was most interested in,” she said. “So, we wanted to make sure that we continued to support that work for years to come.”