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FUEL Education Founder Robert J. Hildreth Gives $1 Million to Deepen WBUR Education Coverage

Founder and Executive Director of FUEL Education Robert J. Hildreth has donated $1 million to WBUR for a significant expansion of its news coverage focused on education. This is the largest single gift from an individual in the history of WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station. It also marks the first seven-figure gift toward WBUR’s capital campaign, still in its quiet phase.

This investment in WBUR will both deepen and extend coverage of key issues related to both K-12 and higher education. While WBUR frequently covers education-related news on its programs, such as Here & Now, On Point and Radio Boston — and in its newscasts — this gift will serve as a catalyst to develop a dedicated team of education journalists, including a full-time reporter, producer and multi-media developer, tackling wide-ranging facets under the “education” umbrella. Results from this team will be heard on the radio, special podcasts and online as part of a vertical focused on education-related issues.

“A financial gift of this magnitude is transformative, and will enable WBUR to become the region’s leading destination for news related to education,” said WBUR General Manager Charlie Kravetz. “Our vision is to broadly tackle the topic, from serious issues to more accessible areas like trends, innovations and debates. Bob’s donation makes this possible and reflects his deep commitment to improving education outcomes on a myriad of levels.”

Hildreth had a broad career in Latin American finance at the IMF, Citibank, Drexel Burnham Lambert, and his own brokering company, International Bank Services, before turning his full attention to active philanthropy. His focus is on education reform in the United States, particularly for low-income populations. Hildreth used his financial background to create a matched savings program which evolved into FUEL Education, a non-profit that provides knowledge, resources and financial incentives for underserved families to send their children to college.

Philanthropist Bob Hildreth (center) with FUEL Education participants, graduating high school senior Temi Ashorobi (left) and her mother, Taiye Ashorobi (right). Hildreth’s $1M grant will support education journalism on WBUR.

FUEL Education coaches low-income parents so they can be a powerful ally in their children’s quest for higher education. Since 2009, FUEL Education has empowered hundreds of parents to become informed consumers of higher education. This month, more than 100 FUEL students will graduate from high schools in Boston, Chelsea and Lynn with college savings accounts. A native of Melrose, Mass., Hildreth is a member of the WBUR Board of Overseers and a longtime supporter of the station. He also serves on the Boston University Board of Trustees and has invested substantially in the Boston University/Chelsea Partnership, a 25-year initiative in the Chelsea Public Schools, which led to the development of a nationally recognized early childhood learning center in Chelsea, Mass. He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and to WBUR’s Cognoscenti, an online ideas and opinion page at wbur.org.

“Thanks to this infusion of funding, we’re envisioning a new kind of education reporting, that doesn’t necessarily rely on school committee meetings and test score outcomes,” said Sam Fleming, WBUR managing director of news and programming. “This coverage will have a voice, great narratives, and focus on real people and real world experiences. Bob’s gift will make it possible to innovate and explore ways to make the stories resonate with our audiences.”

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