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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Chocolate Trust author Bob Fernandez; Political satirist Mark Russell

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Aug 6, 2015 10:06 AM
Chocolate Trust cover 600 x 340.jpg

What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, August 6, 2015:

Milton S. Hershey has such respect in central Pennsylvania that to this day he is referred to as Mr. Hershey.  

After creating the most successful chocolate candy empire in the world, Hershey and his wife Catherine created the Hershey Industrial School for orphaned boys in 1909.  The school later became known as the Milton Hershey School and has undergone many changes through the years.

The Hersheys set up a unique legal trust taking profits from the chocolate business to fund the education of the school's students.

Over the years Hershey chocolate was making so much money that it couldn't all be spent on housing and educating orphans.  

Along the way, money was spent to build the Hershey Medical Center and tourism destinations.

That's a small part of Bob Fernandez's new book, The Chocolate Trust: Deception, Indenture and Secrets at the $12 Billion Milton Hershey School.  Fernandez, who is a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, appears on Thursday's Smart Talk.

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Author Bob Fernandez

Also, when the history of political satire is written, Mark Russell will be listed as one of its pioneers - especially in the broadcasting or television chapters.  Russell goes back to the Nixon Administration and has been lampooning every president and Congress since. 

For 30 years, he hosted the Mark Russell Comedy Specials on PBS.  He has come out of retirement to perform at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse tomorrow night at 7:30 and joins us on Thursday's Smart Talk.

Mark Russell_600X340.jpg

Political Satirist Mark Russell

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  • Scott LaMar img 2015-08-06 10:22

    Statement from the Milton Hershey School on the book...
    Scott,

    Thank you for reaching out to provide MHS with the opportunity to weigh in on the book, which unfortunately chooses to present a deliberately negative and one-sided portrayal of our school. The book is rife with inaccuracies, including simple errors such as inconsistent and inaccurate spelling of names, as well as unattributed quotes. Most worrisome is the conscious and deliberate exclusion of reams of information about the school provided to Mr. Fernandez over many hours by our staff – information that would present a positive picture of our students’ success. For example, the book presents MHS student retention numbers up to 1999 but does not include anything after that, which was provided to the author. Had that information been presented, the reader would know that MHS had a retention rate over 90% in recent years. Our statistics are ahead of the average nationally for boarding schools, which typically do not serve younger elementary students.

    We provided the author countless opportunities to learn more about our school – and hours with our childcare professionals in hopes he would provide a balanced and fair narrative. We answered his questions about every facet of the care we provide. None of that information made it on to the pages of the book.

    MHS is in the top 1 percent of districts in Pennsylvania for student growth in literature and biology and the top 9 percent for growth in algebra, as measured through the Keystone Exams, which evaluate high school level learning. We also ranked in the top 3 percent for growth in reading and the top 13 percent for growth in math in Pennsylvania districts among students in grades 4-8. When students arrive, they have tremendous gaps in learning and very often are several years behind their grade-level peers.

    Milton Hershey School and the Hershey Trust that runs it are not perfect. Our work is very difficult. But the arc of Milton Hershey School’s 100-plus years is a story of historic success in giving generations of children from low-income families a chance to break free from the cycle of poverty and reach their full potential. Anyone who spends any time on our campus will see all the wonderful stories that the writer steadfastly worked to keep out of his book.

    Thanks,
    Lisa Scullin

    • MHS alum img 2015-08-06 15:26

      I find it interesting that Lisa Scullin-Rashid, who is the MHS Vice President of Communication, and official spokesperson for MHS doesn't even know the difference between Enrollment figures and Retention figures.

      When she was asked previously, by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, for a statement on Mr. Fernandez book, she had the EXACT same response for them -- "The book is rife with inaccuracies..." -- and when she was asked to give an example, she choked and couldn't produce even one example.

      Now, after several weeks to prepare a list, she comes up with THIS? First of all, Ms. Scullin-Rashid, there is a distinct difference between "Enrollment" and "Retention." Please bother to read the book first before manufacturing inaccurate criticisms. Retention is covered on (pages 149 & 150) and Enrollment is covered on (pages 231 to 234).

      Incidentally, all of these figures were provided by MHS.

      The truth is, that MHS looses more students to attrition (of all kinds) each year than they successfully graduate. Perhaps Ms. Scullin-Rashid would care to explain this?

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-08-06 10:23

    Robert writes...
    Seems to me your guest's book on the Hershey Trust, et al, may be valuable from a historical perspective but something of a cheap shot from a people perspective. I was cheap labor for six years with Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, happy with the environment and management's handling of employees, happy that I contributed to the Milton Hershey School -- and, probably, to other useful entities in South-Central PA. Also, I worked as a substitute teacher in Harrisburg-area secondary schools for more than seven years and walked out of Milton Hershey School every time thinking, "Wow. Bet there's no school like that in the Unite ... the world!" Also, no follow-up evaluation of outcomes of an education of any person at MHS or ANY OTHER educational institution in ther wortld can determine how that person might have fared in other circumstances. Sorry, Mr. Reported/Author, only you know how your life might have been different had you attended a different high school or college than the ones you spent time at.


    p.s. 1961 graduate of Central High School, Martinsburg, PA and 1965 graduate of Catawba College, Salisbury, NC
    (I am now semi-retired, drawing social security and a couple of nits and pieces of pensions that, alas, do now allow me to support in any substantial way my alma mater, which continues to appeal for help. All I DO KNOW is: I have no way of knowing where I'd be today had I chosen to attend West Chester State Teachers College or Lycoming College in the '60s.)

  • Life Liberty & Pursuit of Happiness img 2015-08-06 10:26

    Read Theft by Deception by John F Halbleib. Recent comment "In this 225 page indictment, Halbleib is calling on the US Attorney General to investigate the initial crime, which was the "$50 million bribe," that was given by the trustees to the PA Attorney General, which created the medical research lab for PSU in 1963. . . . he isn't mincing words and I love it!"

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-08-06 15:42

    Charles Dodson writes...
    I listened to your program about the Milton Hershey School. Some things come to mind.

    1. At the beginning Fernandez said Hershey closed the old factory and moved it to Mexico. You know that isn't true. They moved it to the west side of Hershey. And recently they have expanded the factory in Hershey.

    2. He never mentioned that the school now has 2,000+ children enrolled.

    3. He constantly criticized the Hershey Trust management of the school. Mr. Hershey endowed the school with $60 million in 1918. The school has enrolled nearly 20,000 children since its start. And now the school is worth, according to Fernandez, $12 billion. At the same time Girard College has gone broke. Shouldn't he be investigating his own back yard?

    4. He never mentioned that the school cannot spend the $12 billion. They can only spend the income from the endowment.

    5. He cast doubt that the school actually helps the children it enrolls. There were 97 members of the class of 1950. 95 of them have been vocal about how the school changed their lives for the better.

    6. In reply to good news about the school Fernandez said that it was only anecdotal evidence. He wants the school to prove they are of any value. However, his evidence to destroy the school is a purchase of a golf course and club house. Isn't that anecdotal? I agree it was a poor move. I agree they paid far too much money for the land. Some members of the board voted themselves large amounts of money to attend meetings. What entity nearly 100 years old has not made mistakes? Keep this in mind: $60 million to $12 billion. Also, Girard College is going broke. Again, why is Fernandez not investigating his own backyard?

    7. Fernandez's implication that Milton Hershey took in the children to work for him is ludicrous. If he wanted more money why did he give away $60 million in 1918. At his death in 1945 his estate was valued at $900,000. If he had not given away the $60 million he likely would have been a billionaire.

    Charles Dodson, H.I.S. class of 1950

  • Bill Brill img 2015-08-06 16:34

    Mr. Fernandez stated that he concluded that the "Trust was the story." He should have followed his instinct. Instead he expressed a lot of his opinions - note his use of "I believe" - and inserted himself as a childcare expert.

    Mr. Fernandez believes that his city - Philadelphia - knows nothing about the school - no effect and no impact. Just recently MHS graduates from Philadelphia have made the news. Has he not heard of graduate Doug Oliver who just ran for mayor of Philadelphia or ex-resident Deesha Dyer who has become White House Social Secretary. Does he not know that MHS serves hundreds of students from Philadelphia.

    Most offensive to MHS graduates may well be his statement that "MHS always produces a child who is successful" - as if this is an anomaly. Shame! Shame! You are so far off base. An investigative reporter should not denigrate our school without facts. Or better yet, stick with your Trust "stuff" and let the students and alumni alone!

    I have concern that his remarks may have been tainted by limiting his discussions to a few graduates. Maybe his paper will fund a complete analysis of MHS graduates. Maybe not!

    • MHS alum img 2015-08-06 20:34

      Bill Brill writes:
      "I have concern that his remarks may have been tainted by limiting his discussions to a few graduates. Maybe his paper will fund a complete analysis of MHS graduates. Maybe not!"

      Mr. Brill,
      Did you not read under ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS where Bob Fernandez states -- "My thanks go to Hershey School alumni, former students, parents, former and current employees, insiders, attorneys, law professors, editors, colleagues and friends who helped me with this book. Sadly, at least three of the Home Boys with whom I spoke about their childhoods at the Hershey Industrial School died before this book's publication."

      As you read through the book, did you not recall reading direct quotes and bios from: Mac Aichele, Charlie Bofinger, Philip DiPietro, Ken Brady, Ralph Wolf, Levi Filepas, Ralph Hetrick, Elwood Scheib, Toe Wright, John Mardula, Jerry & Terry Waters, Joe Berning, Sally Purcell, Bill Schwanger, John Halbleib, Ric Fouad, Bob Chalmers, Martayla Poellinitz, Monazia Ward, Dereck Perez, Alusina Barry, and even high-ranking MHS officials including: Bill Lepley, John O'Brien, Bob Reese, Ron Thompson, Connie McNamara, Lisa Scullin, Bob Fehrs, and other SLT members? He even quoted expelled students, parents, guardians, and others.

      Do you recognize ANY of these 40+ names?

      Fernandez interviewed well over 100 people while researching his book! Where do you get off stating that he limited his discussions "...to a few graduates?"

      Also, Bob Fernandez NEVER - EVER stated or professed that he was a childcare expert -- although he DID consult with, get opinions from, and interview several people who ARE bonafide childcare experts.

      Really Bill, just stick to bashing Ric Fouad and PHC, and leave hard-working reporters alone -- you really do appear to be desperate to defend the indefensible.

      • Bill Brill img 2015-08-06 22:59

        Joe Berning aka MHS alum,
        Maybe Mr. Fernandez should have had some of these (many) graduates with him today - particularly Ric Fouad and you. We should replay this at Homecoming in front of hundreds of graduates. Some of his comments today are really off the wall. I am glad they are only opinions!

        • MHS alum img 2015-08-07 00:25

          Bill,
          Just because YOU were offended by what Bob Fernandez said in his interview, or wrote in his book, doesn't mean that it was untrue. Sometimes the truth is offensive.

          For example, I am offended when MHS spends over $1.5 million per year on "advertising" (according to the 2013 MHS IRS-990 tax filing) to trot out MHS kids like trained monkeys to appear in TV commercials, newspaper ads, roadside billboards, enrollment brochures, posters, promotional videos, video clips on social media, YouTube, and Facebook. The professionally-produced "testimonials" exploiting the student's backgrounds from "poverty to the promised land." You know Bill, the never-ending testimonials (always in front of a camera) of how "MHS saved my life and rescued me from poverty, drugs, and street violence." This is nothing short of child exploitation, and it is really uncomfortable to watch. Sexual predators on the MHS campus also offends me, but YOU seem to only be "offended" when someone points out that these videos and exploitation films are "anecdotal" and represent staged and rehearsed examples of MHS's success.

          Like Lisa Scullin-Rashid, you have not identified even one example in Fernandez book that is UNTRUE. Off-the-wall is only your opinion, but everything in Bob Fernandez book is documented and fact-checked. Please refer to the 14 pages (214-234) of SOURCE material in the back of his book.

          Sure, he makes some conclusions in his book that I don't necessarily agree with, but all in all, his book was earnestly researched and honestly written. Just because you are offended by the message, you feel the need to assassinate the messenger -- just like you have done with Ric Fouad and PHC. That speaks volumes about you, that you blindly defend those who run MHS while many of the children enrolled and expelled from there are harmed by some practices that need to be changed.

          • Bill Brill img 2015-08-07 06:45

            Dear MHS alum,

            If I wanted to comment on the book that was written by Bob Fernandez, I would use my own name and go onto amazon.com or bn.com and make such comments.

            As you well know, my comments here were in response to what Bob Fernandez said in his interview on "Smart Talk" and I suggested that maybe those remarks/opinions may be have been tainted by his discussions with alumni like you. Please spare me your anxiety!

        • MHS alum img 2015-08-07 01:02

          Bill,
          Just because YOU were offended by what Bob Fernandez said in his interview, or wrote in his book, doesn't mean that it was untrue. Sometimes the truth is offensive.

          For example, I am offended when MHS spends over $1.5 million per year on "advertising" (according to the 2013 MHS IRS-990 tax filing) to trot out MHS kids like trained monkeys to appear in TV commercials, newspaper ads, roadside billboards, enrollment brochures, posters, promotional videos, video clips on social media, YouTube, and Facebook. The professionally-produced "testimonials" exploiting the student's backgrounds from "poverty to the promised land." You know Bill, the never-ending testimonials (always in front of a camera) of how "MHS saved my life and rescued me from poverty, drugs, and street violence." This is nothing short of child exploitation, and it is really uncomfortable to watch. Sexual predators on the MHS campus also offends me, but YOU seem to only be "offended" when someone points out that these videos and exploitation films are "anecdotal" and represent staged and rehearsed examples of MHS's success.

          Like Lisa Scullin-Rashid, you have not identified even one example in Fernandez book that is UNTRUE. Off-the-wall is only your opinion, but everything in Bob Fernandez book is documented and fact-checked. Please refer to the 14 pages (214-234) of SOURCE material in the back of his book.

          Sure, he makes some conclusions in his book that I don't necessarily agree with, but all in all, his book was earnestly researched and honestly written. Just because you are offended by the message, you feel the need to assassinate the messenger -- just like you have done with Ric Fouad and PHC. That speaks volumes about you, that you blindly defend those who run MHS while many of the children enrolled and expelled from there are harmed by some practices that need to be changed.

  • Kenneth img 2015-08-06 18:39

    You stated: Over the years Hershey chocolate was making so much money that it couldn't all be spent on housing and educating orphans.
    As a graduate of Milton Hershey School and enrolled as a child when Mr. Hershey was still living, I must state that this statement of yours does not inform what happened with the funds. Enrollments in the Milton Hershey School were deliberately controlled at a maximum. Founders Hall and the Centralized campus were both designed for ONLY 1,600 children. In 1971 that maximum figure came very close in total enrollments when 1,575 children were enrolled. That maxim,um figure of 1,600 children was not reached for the next 37 years, that's how enrollments were controlled. Finally, in the school year of 2007/2008 the total enrollments were 1,703. You can see enrollments were controlled for 37 years while the Trust grew by billions of dollars. During those 37 years many children were not enrolled because of the maximum number. During those 37 years there were some Board members who became millionaires. That's where the money went. It was not spent to enroll more children as Mr. Hershey stipulated. It was spent a lot to make millionaires.

  • Bob Fernandez img 2015-08-06 19:14

    For the second time, Hershey Trust spokeswoman Lisa Scullin has claimed publicly that I did not include retention figures provided on the Hershey School into my book The Chocolate Trust. She claimed this in response to a review in the Chronicle of Philanthropy and now with Smart Talk.

    This is absolutely false.

    The retention figures she alleges are missing are there on page 149, with a vignette on how Scullin insisted that I drive to the Hershey School to obtain them. The latest retention figures given to me by the Hershey School were for the 2011-'12 school year and they are part of The Chocolate Trust narrative.

    The index of enrollment figures at the back of the book stops at 1999 because these were the exact figures submitted to the Orphan's Court. In the introductory paragraph to this chart, I say the school currently enrolls 1,900 students.

    Remind me: How is this an example of a book "rife with inaccuracies"?

    In her statement to Smart Talk, Scullin says that the $12-billion charity with a mission to lift poor children out of poverty is "not perfect."

    I wholeheartedly agree as the book describes a school campus seemingly teeming with sexual predators, diverted assets, millions of dollars wasteful spending, missed enrollment goals in past decades, and soaring board compensation.

    Since 1994, the Hershey School has been the target of three Office of Attorney General investigations or reviews as well as the target of a Justice Department investigation into its rejection of a 13-year-old boy with HIV. The school settled this case in 2012 for $700,000

    It's time for the spokeswoman for one of the world's richest child-care philanthropies, funded in part by Hershey chocolate profits, to talk about real issues.

  • Life Liberty & Pursuit of Happiness img 2015-08-06 21:21

    Is it really necessary to publically criticize Bob Fernandez? No, it is not!

    Bob has shed light on a number of abuses by the Hershey Family Trust Fiduciaries. Today’s interview went beyond Bob’s expertise and his answers in areas beyond his investigative reporting fell short of useful information. Nonetheless, his book does serve to open the door into very serious problems relative to abuses of the Hershey Family Trust.

    Read Theft by Deception by John F Halbleib. Recent comment "In this 225 page indictment, Halbleib is calling on the US Attorney General to investigate the initial crime, which was the "$50 million bribe," that was given by the trustees to the PA Attorney General, which created the medical research lab for PSU in 1963. . . . he isn't mincing words and I love it!"

    If this does not answer all of your questions, then turn to Adoption, Fosterage & Homestead by John F Halbleib. He answers all of the questions posed today by WITF’s Scott Lamar in Adoption, Fosterage & Homestead and in Theft by Deception. See recent comment (above) by third party.