Mary McFadden and her husband Larry Stifler were well ahead of the curve in recognizing the need to combat obesity, which is at an epidemic level in the U.S. In 1983, Stifler founded the Boston-based Health Management Resources (HMR), offering clinic-based and at-home diet options, and integrating calorie-controlled meal replacements with healthy lifestyle behavior. It was a new idea back then and it’s one that continues to work today.
In its first five years, HMR was the fourth-fastest-growing privately held company in the U.S. and has since become the number one provider in its field, working with healthcare providers, corporations, clinics, and insurers across the U.S.
The company has also conducted more than a hundred studies on obesity – groundbreaking work that continues to inform medical professionals and practices.
Mary, who describes herself as 100 percent Irish, and Larry, who is part Irish, worked hard to make HMR and their family life a rich and rewarding experience. Mary took on the responsibility of raising the kids while Larry was on the road growing the company. And now that their own financial future is assured they are helping others by providing access to the arts, and encouraging conservation, education and social enterprise.
Mary, a qualified attorney, is the founder of the Wareham Land Trust in Massachusetts. Seeing the lack of open space in Wareham and the surrounding areas of Buzzards Bay, where just three percent of land was designated for open space, she raised over 15 million to protect open space, which has since increased to 15 percent.
Meanwhile, their Northern Retreat project in Albany Township, Maine has grown to 10,000 acres with 100 miles of public-access hiking trails. The Stiflers built the Peabody Lodge atop the 1,550-foot Peabody Mountain and made it available to hikers. To date, their visitor log has over 2,000 names from around the world.
Through the Stifler Family Foundation, formed in 2000, Mary and Larry practice intelligent and informed giving. They support non-profits that can prove they have a clear business plan, strong financial goals, and long-term sustainability.
If a non-profit does not meet the required standards, the foundation will often lend support by connecting the organization with professionals who advise on financial, marketing, grant writing and strategic planning.
Mary and Larry, neither of whom came from affluent families (Mary earned a scholarship to Boston University and later paid her way through Suffolk Law School; Larry earned a full scholarship to Calvert Elementary, the Gilman School and Dartmouth College), are strong believers in earning your way, and opportunity versus entitlement. “You can’t expect success when everything is given and not earned,” says Mary.
George M. ‘Dooie’ Isdale, board chair of Grab the Torch (GTT), a leadership, ethics and philanthropy summer institute for high schoolers, compares Mary and Larry to Paul Newman and his passion for helping others: “They’re not only walking the walk, they’re running a marathon for the greater good in the same fashion of Newman,” he says.
The couple’s association with GTT goes back to 2009, when their daughter, Molly, attended the institute and described it as a life-changing experience. In a recent session with GTT students, Larry and Mary shared their life-mantra of “Wisdom, Work and Wealth,” and their belief that the success of non-profits and the greater good community depends on all three.
“There’s a philanthropist in all of you,” Larry told the youngsters. “You have a role and a responsibility to make the world a better place.”