Lee Vance leaves enduring gift to Foundation

It is scholarship season at the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation and hence a perfect time to acknowledge the very generous gift behind the Foundation’s newest scholarship fund.

Before her death in August of 2015, Lee Vance worked with her husband, Jim, to plan for a sizable gift from her estate to go toward establishing a fund at the Community Foundation to provide scholarships for Fort Atkinson area students.  Thanks to her careful and thoughtful planning, after Lee’s death the Foundation received over $350,000 from her estate with instructions to use the money to both create a new Jim and Lee Vance Scholarship Fund as well as augment our AAUW Second Chance Scholarship Fund.  The Foundation is grateful to both Lee and Jim for their support of our Foundation, our students, and our community.

This support for education is hardly surprising for those who knew Lee.  After graduating from Beloit College with a degree in English, Lee worked as a teacher in the Chicago metropolitan area.  She taught at the elementary school level and also taught English to high school students.  After earning a Master’s degree in English, Lee later went on to earn a second Master’s degree, this one in school administration, and became the principal of a large elementary school on the west side of Chicago.

Learning was a lifelong affair for Lee as her passion for book clubs and travel will attest.

After Lee’s husband, fellow Beloit graduate Carl Erickson, died of cancer, Lee married Jim Vance, also a Beloit graduate and a fraternity brother of Carl’s, and moved to Jim’s hometown of Fort Atkinson.  Jim and Lee enjoyed spending time with each other, whether cooking, golfing, or just walking.

In Fort Atkinson, Lee was a devoted member of the American Association of University’s Women’s scholarship committee, and she was particularly fond of AAUW’s Second Chance Scholarship Fund which provides financial assistance to women who are going back to school after having been out of the mainstream of education for a time.  Thanks to her posthumous gift, this fund has now been increased by $88,000 allowing it to benefit even more local women seeking to improve themselves through education.

The majority of Lee’s gift has gone to the new Jim and Lee Vance Scholarship Fund, a unique fund in that it is tailored to the educational experiences of its founders.  Recipients must be residents of the Fort Atkinson area or graduates of Fort Atkinson High School who are either attending one of the colleges the Vances attended or pursing a degree in their field of study.

In particular, applicants must fall into one of the following categories: male students who are or will be attending the University of Wisconsin Law School where Jim earned his law degree; students currently enrolled in Beloit College, which both Vances attended; undergraduate or graduate students currently pursuing a degree in English, Lee’s major; undergraduate or graduate students currently pursuing a degree in math or physics, Jim’s majors; or female students over the age of 25 who are going back to school.