Crafting a Legacy

November 30, 2023
Meredith Fidrocki



The 1881 Society’s Impact on North Bennet Street School

Supporters of North Bennet Street School (NBSS) find many ways to help us shape the future of fine craft and trade, from sharing their time and unique talents to funding scholarships and special initiatives. The 1881 Society, named for our founding year, recognizes those community members who have made provisions to include NBSS in their estate plans.

The 1881 Society ensures NBSS can continue to help the next generation of students achieve meaningful lives and livelihoods. Planned giving offers donors an opportunity to leave a legacy at North Bennet and, for many, serves as an enduring expression of their values. For some donors, charitable bequests also allow them to make a major gift that otherwise would not have been feasible during their lifetimes.

In 2023, NBSS mourned the loss of three inspiring community members who were also members of the 1881 Society. Over the years, these women produced and appreciated beautiful craft, galvanized support for NBSS, and helped many others discover the School. While humble about their generosity, they  were vocal about their love for NBSS. 

At varying points, NBSS became integrally woven into their lives. They, in turn, chose to consciously weave the School into theirs, and our community is better for it.

In honor of their impact at North Bennet and with thanks for their commitments, we hear from loved ones about what made each of these wonderful women unique, and how NBSS came to hold such a special place in their lives.

Black and white photo of Natalie Albers

Nov. 1927 – Feb. 2023

“My mom Natalie was one of these women of a certain generation, of which I knew many growing up, who may not have had a lot of professional opportunities in the way women do now, but who had this tremendous curiosity and commitment to the things that mattered to them,” shares Janet English, Natalie Albers’ daughter.

“She was very funny, was always laughing, and was the last to leave a party. But she was also a serious person,” Janet notes. “She liked to involve herself in things that mattered and took a stance.” 

And when Natalie discovered the things that mattered to her, she was exceptional at galvanizing support for them. “Although,” Janet points out with a laugh, “‘galvanizing’ is putting it mildly.”

For 50 years, Natalie devoted herself to all aspects of life in Milton, Massachusetts, where she and her husband Bill Albers raised their four children. She founded Milton’s curbside recycling program after first convincing town officials to offer recycling bins at the dump (and spending every weekend posted there to make sure people used them). 

Among her many contributions, she served as an elected Town Meeting member, saved the Blue Hills Trailside Museum from budget cuts in 1990, promoted outdoor education in the public schools, and served at Milton’s First Parish Unitarian Universalist church “in every capacity possible except ordained minister,” noted her family in her obituary. 

An adventurer, Natalie found her passions were enjoyed all the more by sharing them with her beloved children and grandchildren, whether it was bringing her grandson along for cross-country camping trips, where they cooked over open fires, or passing on her love of flying to another grandson, who became a pilot.

Janet says her mother was particularly inspired by art and beauty, poetry, literature, and ideas. So when Natalie was introduced to NBSS in the 1970s, she knew she’d found another mission worth championing.

“My mom’s philosophies very much aligned with the School’s. She appreciated the underlying values of the pedagogical system and teaching people not just how to make a living, but how to live in a meaningful way,” says Janet, a clinical psychologist who has also served on the NBSS Board of Directors and is now on the Board of Advisors, thanks to witnessing her mom’s enthusiastic involvement.

Janet notes, “There is something about North Bennet—it’s a real jewel of Boston, with its consistent quality and interesting community of people who do important things in an unpretentious way that my mom valued.”

Throughout her life, Natalie was dedicated to the craft of needlepoint. She also owned and operated The Irish Gannet in Hingham, Massachusetts, where she sold wares handcrafted by Irish makers. At NBSS, she particularly admired the Cabinet & Furniture Making and Bookbinding programs. 

Natalie served as an NBSS Board member for over two decades, made annual gifts for more than 25 years, and helped many people discover the School. For the School’s 100th anniversary held in 1985, Natalie tapped into her knack for party planning and served as Chair for the centennial celebration. “That was really fun,” Janet recalls. “Mom loved a bash!”

A member of the School’s 1881 Society, Natalie also chose to leave an enduring impact by including NBSS in her estate plans.

“She deeply loved North Bennet. To represent that, she made a legacy gift as an example not just to her family, but to everyone, that the world is bigger than us and we should be committed beyond just the inner circle,” Janet shares. 

“She wanted to make a contribution that would allow people to pursue their excellence, to be bold and unafraid, and to do something with meaning that’s going to add value to the world—whether it was through a beautiful piece of furniture, a restored house, or a piece of jewelry,” Janet says. 

“Mom was proud and involved with the accomplishments and the commitments of the people that she loved—family, friends, and community members,” Janet reflects. “She was a champion of others in her life.” 

Black and white photo of Marilyn Heskett

Feb. 1935 – July 2023

“The one constant running through Marilyn’s life was books, beginning with days she cherished at the small-town Chariton, Iowa library where she worked after school,” shares Jim Heskett, Marilyn Heskett’s husband of 67 years, from their condo where bookshelves run the length of the home and prominently display Marilyn’s binding work.

“Marilyn was most proud of the accomplishments of her children and grandchildren, whether it was in academics, athletics, or other kinds of achievement. Next came her students, whether young or old,” Jim says. 

Marilyn was an educator and began her career teaching first graders to read in Columbus, Ohio. Later, she was an instructor of adult literacy at Tufts University. But book conservation always intrigued her, inspired by her love of books and her father, who had always worked with his hands. 

“So when Marilyn’s life opened up at the age of 50 after the departure of our three children from home, she sought out what seemed to her to be the best place to train in fine craft—North Bennet Street School,” says Jim, UPS Foundation Professor Emeritus of Business Logistics at Harvard Business School. Marilyn enrolled and became a member of the inaugural class of the full-time Bookbinding program, which began in 1986. 

“Marilyn felt North Bennet was a real home to her. It felt good, the people appealed to her, and it even smelled good!” Jim laughs.

He recalls, “Every day seemed to provide something different for Marilyn to ‘bring home.’ One day it might be something that then-NBSS administrator Walter McDonald (now Associate Director Emeritus) had said during a visit to the class. Another day, it might be a description of a particularly beautiful binding that one of her fellow classmates had created.”

After graduating from NBSS, Marilyn completed a year-long internship at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Later, she created and managed a laboratory for the preservation of rare books at Boston College’s John J. Burns Library—a dream job for her, Jim says. “She was very proud of what she was able to do to help the Jesuits at Boston College expand and display their collections of books and manuscripts.”

Over the years, Marilyn served on the NBSS Board of Advisors and gave generously to the building and scholarship campaigns, in addition to annual gifts and gifts to the Bookbinding department. 

In addition, Marilyn delighted in directly supporting the talents of the NBSS community. “Some of the biggest events for Marilyn were those occasions when work she had commissioned from NBSS faculty and students was finished and delivered,” Jim says. “This included several pieces of furniture; a violin for me on my 50th birthday; and a restored roof, attic, and foundation on our 200-year-old home in Belmont, Massachusetts.” (Jim notes with a laugh, “The gift of the violin backfired, and I was informed that my playing was no longer welcome in the house.” The instrument, however, found a welcome home with the Community Music Center of Boston.)

In 2013, Marilyn established the Marilyn L. Heskett Scholarship Fund for the Bookbinding program at NBSS. “That was very important to her,” Jim says. “She pledged to herself to someday make it possible for more of her fellow students to pursue the same passions for creativity and conservation that she had felt. She always looked forward to hearing stories about the recipients of her scholarship.”

As a member of the 1881 Society, Marilyn ensured her dedication to NBSS would live on. “Marilyn’s confidence in the leadership of the School provided an assurance that her support would have the desired long-term impact on those who followed her in their studies,” Jim says.

“Technological advances that some feel threaten the future of the book never shook Marilyn’s faith in the value and importance of book conservation, or conservation and hand-crafted creativity of any kind,” Jim says. “Marilyn’s hope and belief was that there would always be a place for careful, creative craftsmanship, in many cases aided, rather than replaced, by new technologies.”

He adds, “And of course, her hope was that NBSS would be at the forefront of efforts to keep alive outstanding work of this kind, both because of the employment it provides, but more importantly because of the deep personal satisfaction that she and her fellow students derived from producing beautiful work with their hands.”

The closing line of Marilyn’s obituary reflects the place of significance NBSS held in her life: “Her personal heart was with her family, but her professional heart was with the bookbinders studying at North Bennet Street School.”

Black and white photo of Deborah Hauser

Sept. 1936 – Feb. 2023

Deborah Hauser dedicated herself to what she loved most in life. She started by raising a family in Newton, Massachusetts, with her husband Harry Hauser, who passed away in 2003 after almost five decades of marriage. “My mother often said she wanted ‘four children, four years apart,’” smiles Mark J. Hauser, M.D., a psychiatrist and the eldest of Deborah’s four sons born, in fact, four years apart.

Other priorities for Deborah’s daily life included fine art, history, and music. “While raising her children, she studied art and art history,” Mark shares. “Wherever she lived, she supported her local library. And she read voraciously—more than any normal person would!”

Deborah, a piano player, had classical music playing in her home from morning until evening. She also made beautiful needlepoint gifts for her children and grandchildren. 

Her interests led her to engage in many philanthropic efforts in Boston over the years. “When she found a worthy organization, she didn’t simply get involved—she would end up chair of a committee,” Mark smiles.

Deborah volunteered at or served on the boards of many cultural organizations, including Big Sister Boston, the Wang Center (now Boch Center), the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Given her devotion to nurturing those around her, it’s fitting, Mark says, that Deborah first became connected to NBSS while helping his father pursue his passion for craft.

“It was my mother who suggested to my father that he develop an activity outside of his corporate law practice and pursue his fine woodworking hobby by getting involved with North Bennet,” Mark recalls. “My father eventually rose to prominence at the School, first as a volunteer lawyer, and later serving on the Board of Directors. My mother was so proud that she introduced him to North Bennet. And it was in his honor that she stayed involved after he died because she admired the school and the happiness it brought him.”

Mark was also drawn to NBSS through his mother, serving as an Advisor and now on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee. “My mother has me carrying on the tradition,” he says.

Deborah spent the last 16 years alongside her dear friend David Booth. She shared her love for NBSS with David, and when in good health, they attended many gala celebrations, openings, and exhibits at the School. “They loved going to NBSS events together,” Mark says. 

In his eulogy, David shared, “I am constantly amazed at the number of true friends that Deborah has,” noting her profound gift for mentoring young women in her community. 

Her family noted in her obituary, “In every endeavor, Deborah touched the lives of the people she met, sharing her friendship and love. Many more people than just her sons and grandchildren appreciated and benefited from her maternal love, support, and wisdom.”

Deborah’s nurturing spirit extended to NBSS, where she wanted to help students thrive. Two years ago, Deborah donated funds to purchase ergonomic “Slide and Lock” tool-holding systems for each student bench in the Jewelry Making & Repair Department. “She wanted that gift to be meaningful. She wanted it to be purposeful,” Mark notes. 

As a member of the School’s 1881 Society, Deborah demonstrated her love for the School by generously including NBSS in her estate. 

“To her, it wasn’t a question that she would leave money to the School after she died,” Mark says. “That was very important to her, and something she reaffirmed in the weeks before her death.”

Mark reflects, “NBSS is about craft, excellence, and aspiring to beautiful things. The School helps reintroduce veterans to the workforce. It’s a wonderful place with great values. During her life, my mother admired the School, the administration, and the mission. Our family is pleased to stay involved.”

If you have already included NBSS in your estate plans, or would like to receive more information about planned giving, contact Colleen Walsh Powell, Director of Development, at or 617-227-0155 x170.

This story is part of our FY23 Annual Report. View more issues here.