Mount Union Alumna Inducted into the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges’ Hall of Excellence
April 30, 2010
Mount Union College alumna Vanita D. (Bauknight ’63) Oelschlager was inducted into The Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges’ (OFIC) Hall of Excellence at an awards ceremony held Wednesday, April 21 at the Columbus Statehouse. The Hall honors alumni of member institutions of the OFIC whose lifetime achievements exemplify the traditions, ideals, strengths and values of private higher education.
“As an alumna of Mount Union, member of our Board of Trustees and, along with her husband, an extremely generous supporter of the college, she has demonstrated her unwavering commitment to higher education,” said Dr. Richard F. Giese, president of Mount Union College, when introducing her on Wednesday evening. “She has also dedicated herself to many other pursuits. She is a philanthropist, author and poet, as well as a former public school teacher and current co-owner of Oak Associates, an investment firm in Akron, Ohio.”
Oelschlager earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Mount Union in 1963 and has taught in various public schools in Alliance, Columbus and Lorain.
She has been a member of the Mount Union Board of Trustees since 1997. Bracy Hall, Mount Union’s four-story natural sciences facility was made possible through a lead gift from Oelschlager and her husband, Jim. The Mount Union Board of Trustees named the facility, in honor of the sixth president of the College, Dr. Carl Bracy, who made a major impact on Oelschlager’s life as a student. The Oelschlagers also serve as honorary chairs of the Drive for Distinction fundraising campaign.
“Many here have had the blessing of being touched by one who leaves you feeling awakened, affirmed, inspired and challenged to spread that support that was so vital in your own unfolding,” said Oelschlager during her acceptance speech. “My investment in this building [Bracy Hall], is my way of keeping Dr. Bracy’s mission, vision and presence alive and well at work in the world.”
In addition, Oak Associates donated significant funds to Mount Union to establish a student investment team that invests their gifts in the stock market. This offers students the opportunity to gain practical and real-world experience in the stock market industry.
She also established VanitaBooks, LLC, which publishes books for children ages four through eight. Each book presents a dilemma or fear that a child may have and presents resolutions to those issues. Some of the books that she has authored include Ivan’s Great Fall, Big Blue, Birds of a Feather, The Lizard House of Adventure and My Grampy Can’t Walk.
“Mount Union isn’t the Oelschlager’s only passion,” added Giese. “Her husband’s 35-year challenge dealing with multiple sclerosis led the Oelschlagers to co-found the Oak Clinic for Multiple Sclerosis, which they subsidize annually.” The Clinic offers comprehensive services to more than 2,000 patients to improve the quality of life for people with MS. Oelschlager and her husband make sure no one is turned away due to financial limitations.
In addition, the Oelschlagers have been strong advocates for children’s health programs, and their leadership led to the establishment of the Jim and Vanita Oelschlager Center for Child Advocacy at Akron’s Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1998. She is also a writer in residence for the literacy program at The University of Akron.
Over the last few years, she has been named “National Volunteer of the Year” and received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. She also received the “Angel in Adoption Award” for the state of Ohio in 2007 for her outstanding support for adoptive families in Northeast Ohio and was honored as the 2009 “Woman Philanthropist of the Year” by the Summit County United Way.
Oelschlager’s accomplishments are numerous and she attributes most of them to her education. “With the education I got, even at the age of 68, I still haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up. By this, I mean my Mount Union education is something that has prepared me for a life of exploration and renewal. It is a gift that has kept on giving for more than 40 years. I cannot thank Mount Union College, Dr. Bracy or you [the OFIC] nearly enough.”
Other Mount Union alumni that have been inducted into the Hall include Dr. Robert S. Kunkel Jr. ’55, Congressman Ralph S. Regula ’48, Dr. Dorothy Sisk ’58 and Brian L. Stafford ’69.