History of the Hyams Foundation

The Hyams Foundation was founded in 1921 when Godfrey M. Hyams, a Boston metallurgist, engineer and financier, established a trust to ensure that his money would be used for charitable purposes in perpetuity. 

An Unassuming Philanthropist

Godfrey Hyams was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1859 and moved to Boston as a child, where he graduated from English High School and Harvard College.  In the course of his life, he acquired great wealth through his role in companies such as the Anaconda Mining Company.  He also planned and managed the construction of the Virginia Railroad. 

Mr. Hyams maintained a simple style of living, chose not to seek public attention and did most of his giving anonymously.  As an adult, he lived near Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester with his two sisters, Isabel and Sarah, both of whom were active in a variety of charitable activities.  After he died in 1927, a major portion of his estate was given to the trust, one of the largest philanthropic gifts made in Massachusetts up to that time.  The trust’s mandate was a very broad one, to be interpreted over time by the trustees based on evolving community needs.

The Foundation’s Evolution

In addition to the Godfrey M. Hyams Trust, two smaller funds were created at Mr. Hyams’s death in the names of his parents, Solomon and Clara, which were eventually renamed in honor of his two sisters.  For many years, the Godfrey M. Hyams Trust and the Sarah H. Hyams Fund had identical trustees and grantmaking purposes and processes. 

In 1993, the trustees voted to merge the Trust into the Sarah H. Hyams Fund and rename it “The Hyams Foundation, Inc.”  The assets of the Isabel F. Hyams Fund, which for many years had supported settlement house and social service activities in East Boston including the present day East Boston Social Centers, Inc., were transferred to the Foundation in 1996.

Isabel and Sarah Hyams, Godfrey Hyams's sisters

Isabel and Sarah Hyams, Godfrey Hyams's Sisters

Isabel Hyams was a pioneer in her own right, being one of the first women to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.