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A Great Day for Doing Good
A gift from Tom Haas will help promote sustainable food systems.

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Tom Haas
Perry Smith/UNH Photographic Services
PHILANTHROPIST PILOT: Tom Haas at home in Durham.

Tom Haas has a penchant for flying, and for making a difference. On occasion, he is able to align the two perfectly. And that, the Durham philanthropist says, makes for a great day.

Recently, through the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Haas gave $1 million to UNH's Sustainability Institute to establish the Thomas W. Haas Professorship in Sustainable Food Systems. In addition to his commitment to sustainability, Haas supports numerous organizations in the Seacoast, such as Crossroads House and Families First. And he has removed the seats from his Pilatus PC-12 plane to make room for crates of Mexican gray wolves or endangered sea turtles or falcon chicks, flying them to safer grounds as a volunteer with LightHawk, a group that relocates endangered or injured wildlife.

One of his first trips had him shepherding wolves from Washington, D.C., to New Mexico. With the seats out, he was able to fit large dog carriers, allowing the wolves to fly comfortably. "On commercial airlines, there's no direct flight and the wolves could get stressed out. They're not sedated. People poke at them. They get dehydrated. We were able to fly them there in five hours and it was done," Haas says. "I've supported LightHawk for 30 years. Volunteering with them gives me a little more skin in the game."

Haas became a pilot with a nod from his father, who told him to follow his heart. He got into philanthropy the same way. "I've been gifted in my life, through my grandparents and my parents. I grew up with philanthropy," Haas says. He continues that legacy through his own foundation and fund, and through the William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia, founded by his paternal grandparents; Otto Haas founded Rohm & Haas, an international producer of specialty materials, and Phoebe Haas was the first woman to receive a doctoral degree in astronomy from UC Berkeley.

"I'm a very lucky guy, I really am," Haas says. "The bottom line for me is, I want to get out and do some good."

The focus of the Haas professorship will be on leading Food Solutions New England, a public-private partnership that will promote a "healthy, prosperous, just and sustainable food system in New England."

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