Miss Svendsen (1924 – 2010) meant many things to many students during the 46 years she spent in the classroom. Her insight into what each pupil required in order to grasp a certain concept; her kind words of encouragement; her ability to provide life-changing guidance or her firm but gentle expectation that each student should always give their best – these are some of the ways Miss Svendsen endeared herself to her students. Her unwavering commitment to young people serves as a reminder that there are few professions as important as that of an educator.
Former Decatur Mayor and publisher of the Decatur Tribune Paul Osborne writes:
"The impact that teachers like Miss Svendsen have on kids is so meaningful that, over a half century later, they are still loved and respected and come into focus anytime that people talk of those who influenced their lives."
In her cherished memory, former students have established the Eline Svendsen Memorial Fund. Its goal is to provide students in the Decatur Public School District 61 the same opportunity for superior and devoted teaching that many experienced in her classroom. Grants provided by the Fund will afford current faculty with the opportunity to enrich and enhance their teaching skills.
Contributions to the tax-deductible fund will support professional development activities for innovative educators determined to make an impact. The first grants were awarded during the 2014-2015 academic year. Since the Fund’s inception, friends, relatives and students from Miss Svendsen’s days at Woodrow Wilson and Roosevelt Junior High Schools, Stephen Decatur High School and Lakeland College have contributed to an endowment to support the effort. Individuals committed to fostering excellence in education continue to provide donations to recognize not only Miss Svendsen but also other teachers, classmates, and family members.
Eline Svendsen Memorial Fund CommitteeIn 2012 a group of Decatur Public Schools alumni established an effort to celebrate the vital role educators play in the lives of young people. Named for a remarkable mathematics teacher, the Fund’s purpose is to provide continuing education activities for teachers pursuing excellence in the fields of math and science. Each year, an award supports a special project proposed by a Decatur Public Schools teacher to engage in professional development opportunities that spark innovation in the classroom. The creation of the Eline Svendsen Memorial Fund provides community members, alumni and business supporters with an opportunity to invest in committed educators. The Committee and Decatur Public Schools Foundation Director review submissions for selection in keeping with the spirit of the Fund. Current Committee members include:
Phil Benner attended Decatur Public Schools prior to earning his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree from Purdue University and Master of Business Administration from Arizona State. He spent his career in the data processing field, and retired as a manager at Intel in 2000.
Rod Lorenz, M.D. attended Decatur Public Schools, Washington University in St. Louis, MO and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. As a faculty member at Vanderbilt he was responsible for developing and evaluating diabetes-related education programs for patients and health professionals. In 1999 Dr. Lorenz moved to the University of Illinois College of Medicine, where he was appointed Chair of Pediatrics and later Interim Dean of the College of Medicine at Peoria.
Richard J. Schaar is a retired Texas Instruments executive who received a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Chicago. Miss Svendsen taught him for all four years of secondary school. Mr. Schaar feels that every student deserves the opportunity to be taught by a teacher of Miss Svendsen’s mathematical knowledge, skill as a teacher, and dedication to the task.
Frank L. Williams followed an academic career as Professor of Chemical Engineering and senior level administrator at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Deeply rooted in Decatur, he attended Riverside and Washington Elementary schools, Johns Hill Middle School and Stephen Decatur High School. Strongly advantaged by the excellent teaching and coaching exemplified by Miss Svendsen and Coach Tate, among many others, he completed his Bachelor of Science degree at Northwestern University and later earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University. Dr. Williams emphasizes that the Eline Svendsen Memorial Fund provides a way to help today’s teachers have access to the tools they need to continue as those did before them.