Full circle: A professor’s legacy

kentandlaurasampsonLaura Sampson grew up hearing that she “wasn’t college material,” but fortunately, she didn’t listen.

Instead, she earned four degrees, including an EdD and two master’s from the UO that she says would not have been possible without Effie Lu Fairchild’s encouragement.

“She believed in my potential,” said Laura, who met Fairchild in 1977 when she arrived in Oregon and immediately volunteered to assist in the senior adult Vacation College program directed by Fairchild.

Looking back, she realizes that Effie Lu, a national leader in parks and recreation management, was thinking “outside the box” decades before it became a catchphrase.

“She fostered that in her students, so I just thrived,” said Laura, who eventually learned, through testing by experts in the UO College of Education, that her struggles in traditional academic settings were due to undiagnosed learning disorders.

Those same tests showed her in the 99th percentile for creativity, the trait Effie Lu cherished above all others. The findings explained both Laura’s unexpected academic success and her gift for finding new ways of helping people add joy and meaning to their lives.

Today we expect a rich variety of options for retirees, but when Laura was in graduate school, terms like “adult learner” and “lifelong learning” had yet to enter the mainstream.

Her doctoral dissertation introduced a new approach for studies of the elderly. She used photographic documentation, along with traditional techniques, and received the Lynn Rodney Award from her department for her research project’s creativity.

“The UO is where I had the opportunity to blossom and become me,” she said. “It’s where my heart is.”

Laura has spent a lifetime of dreaming up innovative programs for seniors and other special populations, as well as creative teaching strategies for college students in a variety of settings across the country.

After she retired with her husband, Kent, a YMCA professional, they began thinking about their estate plans.

“We consider our careers gifts because they allowed us to serve others,” she said. “It made sense to help students with similar goals.

They decided to direct their gift to the Effie Lu Fairchild Scholarship Fund in the Arts and Administration Program.

“It’s really important that her legacy continues,” Laura said. “I consider this opportunity to give back as going full circle.”

Watch a video about how alumni say Effie Lu Fairchild changed their lives.

Learn how you can make a gift to the UO through your estate plan. E-mail or call our office, 800-289-2354.

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