Richard F. Hazel
Richard F. Hazel, former president of the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Salisbury, made the largest private gift on record to one of Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities, establishing a $3 million endowment to benefit the teacher education program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2004.
In recognition of his contribution to UMES and his lifelong commitment to his community, the University System of Maryland’s governing board approved the naming of the university’s education, social science and health science building Hazel Hall in his honor.
“We will be forever indebted to Mr. Hazel for his generosity to UMES, his passion for producing excellent teachers and his love of the Eastern Shore,” said Dr. Thelma B. Thompson, then president of UMES, at the 2005 ceremony.
“This university has a rich history … of producing outstanding educators. Thanks to Richard Hazel and his vision, UMES will be able to attract some of the best of our local high school graduates intent on pursuing careers in education while expanding faculty development opportunities. This is a joyous day,” Thompson said.
University system Chancellor William E. Kirwan echoed Thompson’s sentiments.
"This wonderful gift demonstrates his dedication to advancing higher education opportunities on the Eastern Shore and his desire to help UMES address the state's critical shortage of teachers," Kirwan said.
Hazel, who died in 2008, dedicated his adult life to the betterment of his community, both in terms of growing a prosperous business that employed hundreds of local citizens and sharing the fruits of that business in the form of innumerable donations and contributions to area charitable organizations.
His generosity touched the lives of literally thousands of people on the Eastern Shore, many unbeknownst to his benevolence. He exuded the attitude of giving reflected in the Golden Rule, and did so in a humble, unassuming manner, reassuring all who directly or indirectly benefited from his generosity that his was a decision from the heart, mind and spirit.
Hazel's father-in-law, William Morgan, hired him in 1957 to work in the family business, the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Salisbury. Hazel assumed managerial responsibility for the company in the mid-1970s. In turn, he began handing over the day-to-day operation of the business to his son and daughter, Morgan and Colleen Hazel, in the 1990s.
The company more than doubled in size during Richard Hazel’s leadership, expanding from some 100 employees to nearly 250 workers. New product lines were added, facilities were expanded and, in 1986, a smaller distributor in Virginia was acquired.
Beloved by his employees, Hazel – and Pepsi in Salisbury – became synonymous with community support. A broad spectrum of Lower Shore charities have been beneficiaries of Pepsi donations in terms of product and funding.
Hazel was the 1987 recipient of the Salisbury Rotary Club’s Four Way Test Award. He received the Greater Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce’s Civic Award in 1990, and was the Del-Mar-Va Council Boy Scouts Honoree in 1993. He received the prestigious Salisbury Award in 1994, and, in 2000, was honored by Lower Shore Enterprises as its Special Honoree. The Tri-County Coalition recognized him with its Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award.
He began a minority scholarship endowment through the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore because he saw the need for more minority teachers in classrooms to serve as role models and mentors. That endowment has awarded some four dozen scholarships since its inception.
Hazel’s generosity extended beyond his checkbook. He was fond of teaching young people about fishing techniques and hunter safety, in collaboration with the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Department of Natural Resources. And he enjoyed a good chat, talking and listening to his friends and acquaintances for hours on end.
The Hazel Endowment at UMES benefits many of the Eastern Shore’s children. Hazel Scholars are chosen from a pool of students from the Eastern Shore who want to be teachers. At both undergraduate and graduate levels, full tuition scholarships are awarded to students who meet the academic criteria and who are from the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, and Sussex County, Del.
The Hazel Endowment also established an endowed professorship in the Department of Education, as well as providing funding for education faculty for seminars and workshops in their fields of study.
-- GAINS HAWKINS