A Remarkable Legacy from an Industry Leader

Tourism and hospitality industry giant Tom Kershaw turned to the Boston Foundation to help him strengthen his charitable impact and legacy.

September 28, 2021

By Barbara Hindley, Associate Vice President of Communications, and Emma Penick, Senior Director, Gift Planning and Advisor Relations

Tom Kershaw sitting at a bar. A yellow wall behind him is decorated with maps, photos, paintings, and a boat wheel.
Tom Kershaw sits at the bar at Cheers on 84 Beacon Street.

When Thomas Kershaw decided that he wanted to leave a meaningful legacy to the numerous nonprofit organizations that had touched his life over the years, he turned to the Boston Foundation, whose staff is expert at helping donors leave a bequest of any size through planned giving. Like Kershaw, a number choose to donate non-liquid assets for this purpose.

A giant in the hospitality and tourism industries, Kershaw had been impressed with a major report published in 2018 by TBF titled The Work of Leisure: Behind the Scenes of the Massachusetts Leisure, Hospitality and Tourism Industry. Shining a bright and welcome light on the critical role the sector plays in our state’s economy, the report detailed the numerous economic benefits of the industry that Kershaw has played a major role in shaping over the years.  

Shortly after university, Kershaw was miserable in a desk job at a large company when he took a career test; the results unambiguously pointed this consummate host who loved a good party toward the hospitality industry. In 1969, he and a friend cobbled together the resources to purchase a large building at 84 Beacon Street and turn it into the Hampshire House, a major venue for special events, private parties, weddings and corporate functions. Unexpectedly, the main attraction at that location turned out to be a pub they built in the basement called the Bull & Finch, which inspired the setting of the hit television series “Cheers” back in 1981. The Hampshire House Corporation went on to create a replica of the Cheers bar in that same building, as well as in Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and opened 75 on Chestnut in Beacon Hill as well as 75 on Liberty Wharf, a small, but popular bistro with magnificent views of Boston Harbor.

 An Industry Forever Changed by COVID?

There are few authorities on the travel and tourism industries who could offer a greater perspective on the impact that COVID-19 has had on the travel and tourism sectors than Tom Kershaw. “When you disrupt a pattern of behavior,” he explains, “people don’t necessary return to it.” He notes, in particular, the impact on business travel. “Companies have learned that they can operate without travel,” he explains. “That means fewer airplane trips, fewer hotel stays and fewer visits to restaurants. When it comes to business travel, it’s a major part of the hospitality industry—and we’re seeing what could be a permanent ‘new normal,’ when it comes business travel. That will have a major impact on the industry.”

As Kershaw’s role in Boston’s hospitality and tourism sectors expanded, he became a leader in Boston’s dynamic tourism and trade industries. He served as the Chairman of the Board for the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau for 18 years. He also served on other industry boards, including the Massachusetts Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association, traveling to 50 states to support that industry. He almost always chairs the boards on which he sits. “Basically, I want to be the person who drives the train,” he explains. 

Now he is the person who is leaving a remarkable legacy in the form of a planned gift through the Boston Foundation. Planned giving allows a donor to have an impact beyond his or her lifetime. The numerous nonprofits included in Kershaw’s planned gift include the Boy Scouts of America, which he credits with contributing to his work ethic, and the Bunker Hill Community College Foundation, of which he is a founding member. 

“Bunker Hill Community College educates so many people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to attend college at all,” says Kershaw, who has a particular affinity for the school’s Culinary Arts Certificate Program, for which he has raised major funds over the years, even employing students to prepare food for events at Hampshire House. 

Kershaw’s love for Boston also led to his founding of the Boston Common Frog Pond, which he ran for 14 years, and serving on the boards of other nonprofits, including The USS Constitution Museum and the Friends of the Public Garden. Many of the nonprofits he has worked with and supported over the years will benefit directly from his legacy. “I find it very comforting to have an estate plan that I know will benefit so many of the institutions I care about long after I’m gone,” says Kershaw.

 Let Us Help You with Your Gift Planning

Tom Kershaw worked closely with the Boston Foundation to establish his charitable legacy. TBF offers many avenues to incorporate charitable giving into estate and gift planning. TBF staff can help you share your charitable intent and think through which type of gift is right for you. 

Contact Emma Penick or Betsy Townsend for more information.