Dedicated teacher showed incredible generosity over the years
Devotion and commitment defined Lois Theis ’52.
To her elementary students, Lois was one of the best. To her friends, she was always interested in them, both personally and professionally. To her school, her beloved Miami University, she was indispensable.
Cultivating a love of the outdoors while a student at Miami, Lois built a strong relationship with the school that grew long after she graduated. A school teacher in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she kept close ties to Miami throughout the years and left a lasting legacy by implementing a series of gift strategies with the university.
Lois saved substantially over her lifetime in education. Through her prudence and careful planning, she created a legacy at Miami in excess of $1.75 million.
A life transformed
Miami prepared Lois to be a teacher and reinforced her innate love of the outdoors through the natural beauty of the campus. Miami Athletics were also of great interest, especially football and hockey. Lois always paid particularly close attention when Miami and Michigan would meet on the ice.
With savvy giving strategies, Lois created a series of seven gift annuities that enhanced her retirement revenue and at the same time allowed her to give to Miami. She also deployed other strategies to simplify her estate, including naming Miami as beneficiary of her retirement funds, designating the university as the payable-on-death beneficiary of her checking account, and including Miami in her will.
Lois used her various gifts as a way to create the following endowments at Miami:
- The Lois A. Theis Luxembourg Scholarship
- The Lois A. Theis Memorial Scholarship to benefit students studying botany in the Department of Biology
- The Lois A. Theis Memorial Fund to benefit the Ecology Research Center
Lois enjoyed getting out in the world, and her experiences led her to recognize the value of travel for personal growth. Studying abroad was not an option when Lois was at Miami, so she decided to help provide international experiences for students through her Luxembourg scholarship. How fortunate, then, that she was able to channel this passion for international learning through a university that ranks No. 1 in study abroad participation.
Another of Lois’ passions was the outdoors, and she spent her summers in a cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Her fund has added great value to Miami’s Ecology Research Center and allows students to delve deeper into their research.
Lois visited the Center in 2013 and sat in on a lecture, participating with students as they sampled honey.
“She was full of questions and just bubbling over with enthusiasm,” says Dr. Ann Rypstra, director of the Center.
“One of the focuses of her gift was fostering our ability to have research opportunities to students and bring them outdoors. She was particularly excited about the aviary facility.”
There are plans to name the Center’s aviary after Lois, who was herself an avid bird watcher. In addition to supporting the Ecology Research Center, Lois created a scholarship to help undergraduate students who share her interest in botany.
“The Theis memorial scholarship in botany will enable students with limited resources to pursue Lois’ shared passion with plants and the outdoors by providing them with hands-on lab and field experiences that will serve them well in their plant science careers,” says Dr. Tom Crist, chair of the Department of Biology.
Committed to education
Heavily influenced at Miami by professor Walter Havighurst, Lois showed that same capacity to shape and inspire students. She was teaching fourth, fifth, and sixth grades at Bader School in Ann Arbor when she was named Conservation Educator of the Year in 1982 by the Washtenaw County Soil Conservation District. She earned the honor through her “long involvement with outdoor education projects, including canoe and camping trips.”
Modest and to the point, her response to the award was unsurprising for those who knew Lois: “This is embarrassing. Keep the story to three lines, please,” she told an Ann Arbor News reporter.
Lois never wanted recognition or publicity, whether it came to teaching accolades or her generosity toward Miami, although she no doubt understood the impact of both her career and philanthropy. Lois felt it important to keep in contact with many of her students in Michigan, and she followed them throughout their own careers. It was a point of pride that so many did so well, and she would often tell stories of her students’ accomplishments.
Hearing from Miami students was a treat for her as well. She looked forward to correspondence in the form of thank-you notes from Miamians who were recipients of her scholarships, and Lois met some of those students during trips to campus.
“Universities need people who appreciate the experience they had here to give back,” Dr. Rypstra says.
“The kind of gift that Lois gave, we can really multiply that to support the research of lots of different students, lots of different collaborations between students that give them the freedom to develop their own research ideas. It really opens a lot of doors.”
Make a lasting impact
Like Lois, you can create a legacy of support at Miami through simple beneficiary designation gifts or other smart giving strategies. Contact Jayne Whitehead, H.A. '06, J.D. at 513-529-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about supporting a program close to your heart.