A most humble and selfless individual, Louise Van Vliet has been a longtime community volunteer, most notably for the Miami Valley Dance Council, Dayton Literary Council, Dayton Peace Museum, Habitat for Humanity and League of Women Voters, among others.
Her generosity also has included honoring several special individuals through two scholarship funds at The Dayton Foundation. The Fannie Vought Fink Memorial Scholarship Fund assists students who reflect the interests and backgrounds of her grandmother, and The Willie and Eloise Root Memorial Scholarship Fund aids students who are migrant workers or have an interest in the lives of migrant workers.
Q: Please share a little about yourself, including how you came to live in the Dayton area.
A: I was born and raised on Guernsey Dairy Farm in Pleasant Plains, New York, and attended schools in the Hyde Park School District. After graduation, I worked at an apple orchard, which hired many migrant workers, including Willie and Eloise Root. I became close to the Roots. At the end of the apple season I was very sad, because I knew that I would never hear from them again since neither of them could read or write. Afterwards, I felt guilty because I never attempted to help them learn to read or write.
After the apple season was over, I was hired by Manor Farms, a producer of laboratory animals for medical research, and attended the local community college. One of our major consumers was the Cancer Chemotherapy Project at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio. I took a job with them when I decided to go to Ohio State University for a degree in biological studies. As a graduate student, I majored in speech and hearing.
One of the requirements for speech and hearing majors is to listen to all new students for speech variations. When they heard my New York accent, they suggested that I take a speech dialects course. I fell in love with the course and later got my graduate degrees in Speech and Hearing Science. I was first introduced to Dayton when I received a traineeship at the Dayton VA Medical Center.
Q: Did you continue to work for the Dayton VA?
A: I did. After my internship I was hired for a full time staff position and obtained certification in both Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. While I worked at the VA, I also presented lectures at Miami University and supervised speech pathology students. Eventually I joined the faculty at Miami University but later moved back to Dayton after retirement.
Q: Why did you choose to honor your grandmother and two migrant workers with these funds?
A: My grandmother was the most influential person in my life. She always advocated for the underdog and never complained, even though she was bedridden for the last few years of her life.
Willie and Eloise Root taught me how important it is to be able to read and write. Even if you are very bright, if you can’t read or write you are severely limited in reaching your full potential.
Q: How have these funds inspired you personally?
A: I guess it’s helped me to reduce my guilt for not helping them when I had the opportunity during their lifetimes.
Q: Why is helping others important to you?
A: It makes me feel good, and I believe that we are morally responsible to do so.
Q: How would you complete this sentence, “My giving makes me feel____”?
A: … that I have helped in a small way and reminds me that I should do more.
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The Dayton Foundation has been helping people help others since 1921 by managing charitable funds, awarding grants to nonprofits and launching community initiatives. Contact the Foundation at (937) 222-0410 or visit www.daytonfoundation.org.