Philanthropist and Environmentalist
2006 Women's History Month Honoree
Nancy Nordhoff grew up in the Seattle area in a family with a long history of generous philanthropy. In 1954, Nordhoff graduated from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Carrying on her family tradition of community service, Nancy Nordhoff became a hands-on philanthropist and has been a funder and advisor for the Women’s Funding Alliance of Seattle for over 25 years. Nordhoff generously puts her money, time, and energy into visionary projects. Her sense of achievement comes not only from funding and building, but from having an idea and taking action to make it happen.
In 1985, to help empower women to find their voices and to write their stories, she built and founded Hedgebrook Writers Retreat. This beautiful retreat center, nestled on a hillside forest facing Puget Sound provides women of all ages and cultures with space and time to create significant work, in solitude and community. Hedgebrook celebrates the diverse voices of women from around the globe and provides food, accommodations, travel stipends and other support to writers whose work is transforming our world. Hedgebrook Writers Retreat is also developing an international community connecting writers and audiences.
Nordhoff’s sense of community is also reflected in her high regard for taking care of the land, for preserving the environment and historic sites. She built and donated a downtown park to the city of Langley on Whidbey Island, restored a turn of the century Finnish farmhouse to serve as a conference facility for the Whidbey Institute, and bought and donated 24 acres of wetlands for salmon restoration. In 1999, to help foster this work, she founded Goosefoot Community Fund, a not for profit corporation, which works to sustain the rural character of Whidbey Island through historic and environmental preservation, sustainable development, affordable housing, and the support of the rural economy.
A major project of the Goosefoot Community Fund has been renovating and restoring Bayview Corner as a model of environmental integrity, economic development, and community revitalization. Bayview Corner was redesigned and reconstructed by reclaiming and recycling as much of the original building materials as possible. Bayview Corner now serves as the center of the community by providing public programs that include an oral history project with interviews from long-time residents who were part of Bayview’s early history and photographic displays that date back to the area’s life just after the turn of the century. Bayview Corner also serves as a place for contemporary artists to display their art.
Nordhoff’s philanthropy is a testament to how vital an individual’s support can be to empower individuals and organizations. In 1999, and again in 2005, Nordhoff’s generosity helped finance important projects that allowed the National Women’s History Project, the organization that spearheaded and promotes the recognition of March as National Women’s History Month, to become Y2 compliant and revise and expand its website. These transitions helped the organization thrive and would not have been possible with her support.
When asked, Nordhoff eloquently said, “Yes, I consider myself a philanthropist. I am not convinced that being a philanthropist is determined by the amount of money given, but by a generous heart giving as much as possible.”