“I firmly believe that God has given each of us certain gifts of time, talents, and financial resources and that He does not intend for us to keep these gifts unto ourselves, but that we use them for the betterment of His people here on earth.” These words, shared in HCCF’s 1993 Annual Report, aptly capture the essence of the person who was Martha Beckenholdt. Martha was born in 1915 in Dearborn County. She graduated as valedictorian of her Cowan High School senior class, then completed three years at Ball State University before leaving to work and help fund her sister’s college expenses. In 1941, she became employed as an office clerk by the newly organized Greenfield Gas Company, Inc., but so impressed the company’s leadership with her savvy business expertise that she became Secretary-Treasurer of the Corporation in 1943. She assumed the role of President in 1967 and became the first female in the United States to lead a utility company. In an era where women were not likely to be recognized for their leadership skills, she stepped on the national platform to represent the country’s utility field in Washington, D. C. where she provided important information related to legislative action. This was a fact for which she was particularly proud and loved to share…a rarity from humble Martha.
Martha played a vital role in the success of HCCF, when in 1993, she established a Charitable Remainder Trust naming the Hancock County Community Foundation as its beneficiary. By using the then newly organized Foundation to administer her future philanthropic endeavors, many others followed. A well- respected community servant’s endorsement was key in HCCF’s ability to be recognized as a viable organization, and HCCF will be forever grateful for Martha’s trust. In 1996, Martha once again worked through HCCF to endow a four year renewable scholarship that she established in honor of her family.