Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Semisweet: An Orphan's Journey Through the School the Hersheys Built
The Milton Hershey School is the richest and wealthiest K-12 residential school in the world. Its $12 billion trust fund, financed by sales of the iconic Hershey candy, eclipse that of Cornell, Dartmouth, and Johns Hopkins combined. Even more stunning is that the school for orphans owns The Hershey Company and not the other way around. As the twentieth-century drew to a close, the School's Board of Managers creatively interpreted the Founder's mission and tried to turn the refuge for extremely needy children into more of a middle-class boarding school. The alumni Homeguys challenged the Board and, after a decade of legal struggle and national publicity, won the battle to reclaim the soul of the school. Johnny O Brien, an orphan who lived at the school growing up, helped to lead the successful alumni protest. In a shocking turn of events, he was then selected to become Milton Hershey School's eighth president and tasked with restoring the mission, morale, and character-building culture of the Home. He would need all his orphan resilience, Princeton and Johns Hopkins wisdom, and his good friends, to transform this unusual and remarkable school. In a riveting and haunting account, O Brien tells a universal story about the vulnerability of needy children, describes the madness that consumed his beloved brother, explores the cruelty of bullies both young and old, exposes the corrupting influence of money, and shows how the Milton Hershey School continues its sacred mission of saving thousands of America's neediest children.