Roland and Hope Talbot: philanthropic trailblazers

Donor advised funds allow donors to actively participate in grantmaking by recommending grants to nonprofit organizations.

Roland and Hope Talbot may not have thought of themselves as trailblazers when they established the first donor advised fund at the Foundation in December of 1979, but it’s an act that has been replicated by approximately 400 other individuals and families in the four decades since.

Neil Steinberg and Hope Talbot
Hope Talbot and Foundation President & CEO Neil D. Steinberg at Hope's 90th birthday celebration in 2011

Donor advised funds allow donors to actively participate in grantmaking by recommending grants to nonprofit organizations. It was an idea that appealed to the Talbots. The Rhode Island Foundation News reported at that time, “While the Talbots are interested in a number of cultural, medical, and educational institutions, they feel that a donor advised fund provides them with the flexibility they desire to address new charitable interests in the future.”

Roland Talbot earned a degree in business administration from Bryant College (now Bryant University), built a 25-year career with the Bulova Watch Company, and was active in the community. He was a trustee of the former Cranston General Hospital Osteopathic and was president of the Providence Chapter of the National Association of Accountants and the Administrative Management Society. He received Bryant’s Nelson Gulski Service Award and was a charter member of its President’s Leadership Council. He died in 1998.

Hope Talbot earned a diploma in nursing from the former Children’s Hospital School of Nursing in Boston, served as a First Lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II, and earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing education at Boston University. She worked as a pediatric supervisor at Roger Williams Hospital for many years, served on the board of the VNA of Rhode Island, and was active in the Gaspee Plateau Garden Club. Both Talbots were members of Grace Church in Providence and loved to garden.

Hope Talbot (right) and Pam Tesler Howitt, senior philanthropic advisor at the Foundation, at Hope's 90th birthday celebration in 2011

Following her husband’s death, Hope continued many of the activities they previously shared, most notably the flower and vegetable gardens adjacent to their home. In a 2005 interview with the Foundation, she explained of the gardening, “We did it together. He always had a garden. I spend time each day in the garden now.”

In that same interview, she explained of her husband, “He’d say, ‘We’ve got so much to be grateful for and this (the donor advised fund) is what we should do.’ I came from nothing, didn’t have much; neither did Roland. He felt he was successful in his life because of his education. That’s why we have done so much with Bryant University.”

Through the years the Talbots used their donor advised fund to support the Hope and Roland Talbot Scholarship Fund at Bryant College (designated for students in good standing who are residents of Rhode Island), as well as many local organizations including the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, Episcopal Diocese of Providence, St. Mary’s Home for Children, and Comprehensive Community Action Program, among others.

With Hope’s death in 2020, the couple’s philanthropy will continue, as they instructed, through the scholarship at Bryant, as well as for unrestricted charitable purposes and fields of interest including economic/community development, education, children and families, arts and culture, and health.

It’s a wonderful legacy for a pair of philanthropic trailblazers.