Legacy of generosity

Finding Kate CoverKate Macy Ladd visited Berry only once in her life, but those three days in 1915 inspired a lifetime of support. The legacy of her generosity is still evident today in the form of Lemley Hall, the Road of Remembrance, Memorial Library, and, of course, the Ladd Center, the only Berry building that actually bears her name.

The story of the New Jersey philanthropist – an heiress to the Standard Oil Company – is chronicled in Finding Kate: The Unlikely Journey of 20th Century Healthcare Advocate Kate Macy Ladd, a new book by Meryl Carmel. It was during her 10 years of research on the project that the author learned of Ladd’s strong ties to Martha Berry and her schools.

As Carmel recounted, Ladd’s visit to Berry was driven by a desire to seek out causes and people she could support. Joining her was husband Walter – a future Berry trustee – her Pomeranian dog and good friend Alice Lemley. During a train layover in Atlanta, she ordered boxes of chocolates for the Berry students.

“For many of those children, no one had given them a gift like that before,” Carmel noted.

Ladd was so inspired by the students’ gratitude that she continued to send them Christmas chocolates every year until her death in 1945.

Kate Macy Ladd Portrait

A color version of this Albert Herter portrait hangs in the Court of Honor at The Martha Berry Museum.

“She describes the experiences she had with the children at Berry to be some of the most interesting of her life,” the author said.

Beyond her own donations, Ladd helped lay the groundwork for the “Berry Pilgrims,” groups of wealthy Northerners who would come to Berry to see the campus and donate money to the school. As detailed in Berry College: A History, by Drs. Ouida Word Dickey (50C, FFS), and Doyle Mathis (58C, FFS), these pilgrimages were led by Emily Vanderbilt Hammond, another prominent philanthropist who first met Martha Berry at Ladd’s home.

Ladd’s opinion of the Berry founder was such that she eventually established a private trust to provide her with a private income. She also helped fund significant reconstruction and landscaping at Oak Hill in the late 1920s.

Interestingly, the only structure on campus named for this early friend of Berry wasn’t built until the 1960s, long after her death. As the author explained, Ladd was a very selfless person who was less interested in the credit for the donations and more concerned with the giving itself.

“She had a heart for people, for all kinds of people,” Carmel stated.

By student writer Kendall Aronson

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