About Us

Learn About the Sandia Foundation and the Woodwards

Sandia Foundation

Today, the Sandia Foundation board of directors ensures that the spirit of the Woodwards’ philanthropic goals continues and evolves to address today’s challenges and opportunities. The board of directors also safeguards the assets of the Foundation and makes prudent financial decisions to ensure the portfolio of investments is managed wisely.

The Woodwards had a deep and abiding love for their alma mater, Dickinson College, the University of New Mexico, and the Albuquerque community. Funding student scholarships at these institutions and supporting the wellbeing and educational advancement of Albuquerque children is our current focus. The board of directors works in partnership with the Albuquerque Community Foundation to review, recommend, and make annual award decisions on grant applications.

The Woodwards

Hugh Woodward and Helen Kisner’s story began in Carlisle, PA, where they met and fell in love while both were students at Dickinson College. They graduated in 1908 and married three years later after Hugh obtained his law degree, also from Dickinson.

New Mexico is a long way and a world apart from central Pennsylvania, but when Helen was diagnosed with tuberculosis and advised by her doctor to move to a dry climate, New Mexico became Hugh and Helen’s adopted home.

Hugh tried his hand at running a cattle ranch in a rural town called Clayton, in the northeast corner of New Mexico. However, when after 15 years of hard work their entire herd was lost in a raging snowstorm, they left ranching life behind for opportunities in the state’s largest city, Albuquerque.

Hugh quickly became a prominent attorney and businessman, serving as lieutenant governor (under Governor Richard Dillon) and as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico under President Herbert Hoover. Through savvy real estate deals and the ownership of several finance and construction companies, Hugh amassed a fortune, and established the Sandia Foundation in honor of his beloved Helen, whom he credited with inspiring him to philanthropically support Dickinson College, the University of New Mexico, and charitable organizations whose mission was to help less fortunate members of the Albuquerque community.

Throughout his life, Hugh believed in service: local, regional, and national. He was the founder of the Albuquerque Planning Commission and a founding member of the Middle Rio Grande Flood Control Committee. At the state level, he served on the New Mexico Board of Education and as a regent for the University of New Mexico. A passionate conservationist, Hugh was president of the New Mexico Game Commission, and served on the U.S. Forest Service Committee and the board of the National Wildlife Federation.

Three presidents (President Herbert Hoover, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and President Harry S. Truman) sent Hugh letters of thanks and recognition. Other forms of recognition received by Hugh included a Presidential Citation for Public Service, the U.S. Attorney General’s Certificate of Appreciation, and the National Conservation Award.

Although remembered as shy and reserved, when Helen’s health allowed she was a community activist, philanthropist, and homemaker. When she was not feeling well, she loved to sit quietly and look out the window of their home on Sigma Chi Road, close to the UNM campus, and watch the ever-changing colors of the Sandia Mountains—thus inspiring the name for the Sandia Foundation.

When Hugh passed away in 1968, he left half his estate to the Sandia Foundation. The remainder transferred to the Foundation upon Helen’s death, who, somewhat ironically, outlived Hugh, passing away in 1974 at age 90.

Today and always, the Sandia Foundation proudly upholds the legacy of Hugh and Helen Woodward.

Helen Elizabeth Kisner:

1908 Dickinson College Yearbook

Helen’s love for mankind has won the friendship of the entire class, but the very latest addition to the class seems to have been the most enamored by her charm. To have this honest, sincere girl for a friend is a special favor which those who enjoy prize highly and which those who do not enjoy, should seek.

Hugh Beistle Woodward:

1908 Dickinson College Yearbook

Woodie reveals his humanity best by his attachment for a maiden. By the long, golden hairs that his chum sometimes finds on his coat, you’d think that he might possibly have been Kisner.

More about the Woodwards

To learn more about Hugh and Helen’s love story and their extraordinary legacy, click on the video.