In 2007, International College was renamed Hodges University in honor of its main benefactors, Earl and Thelma Hodges. The Hodges have been longtime residents of Naples and ongoing supporters of Hodges University.
The contributions of Earl and Thelma Hodges are significant, spanning nearly 50 years of service in Southwest Florida. Their generous gifts of time, effort and funds have strengthened the business environment,the role of charitable organizations and families.
The Hodges are perhaps best recognized as owners of the Earl G. Hodges Funeral Chapel in Naples, which provided more than 40 years of service to the local community. The Hodges have had a number of other successful business interests both in and out of state and have been actively involved in a countless number of local causes.
Born in 1927 in Livingston, Tennessee, Earl and his family faced the challenges of The Great Depression. Following the death of his mother when Earl was10 years of age, his father worked feverishly in the barbershop that they owned. As a result, Earl became quite self-sufficient and hardworking himself. After working for his father, Earl secured a number of other jobs. A turning point occurred when at age 13,he attended a funeral service at a rural church and cemetery for a friend of the family in Tennessee. It was then that he realized what he wanted to be.
After high school, Earl worked for a funeral home until World War II, when he joined the military. He later returned to work for a year to save money to attend Gupton-Jones College of Mortuary Science in Nashville. He received his Tennessee Funeral Director’s License in 1948. In 1956, Earl came to Naples to visit an aunt and uncle. In 1961, he earned his Florida Funeral Home License and decided to open his own funeral home. The Hodges Funeral Chapel opened in 1962.
Earl was honored as a recipient of the Naples Daily News Outstanding Citizen Award, the American Red Cross Outstanding Volunteer Award, the North Naples Rotarian of the Year Award,and the Junior Achievement Business Leadership Award. Earl served on the Hodges University President’s Society and was recognized as the Hodges University Humanitarian of the Year in2001. Earl was a veteran of WWII and the Korean War,and was instrumental in establishing the Veteran’s Scholarship fund.
Earl met Thelma during a blind date for the Junior Women’s Tinsel Ball in Naples about six months after moving to Naples. Originally from Lawrence, Massachusetts, Thelma Hodges was a registered nurse, and was one of three original employees at the Naples Community Hospital. Thelma proceeded to work for Naples Community Hospital for more than 20 years, and at different times was supervisor of the operating room, central supply and emergency room. Before coming to Naples, she was associated with the Providence Lying-In Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.
Earl and Thelma have been mentors to many. Earl Hodges passed away in 2013. His generous support of the students who attend Hodges University will be remembered for many years to come. Thelma is still active in the community and continues to support the students who attend Hodges University.
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