she’s betting on valencia

Geraldine Gallagher, CFRE, sits down with Helen Von Dolteren-Fournier. Helen Von Dolteren-Fournier, JD, CFP, President of AEGIS Law Firm PL, is the chair of Valencia Foundation’s board of directors.


Q: What influences in your life have encouraged you to be philanthropic and community-minded?

According to my mother, Helen Calafut-Von Dolteren, it doesn’t take much to be a nice person – a kind word, holding a door open for someone or sharing a bowl of homemade soup. Combine kindness with God’s word, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and you naturally wind up with philanthropy in my world.


Q: Tell us about your law firm.

AEGIS Law Firm PL focuses on personalized estate planning. The company was founded upon the principle that it is our mission to help our clients fully understand complicated issues through education and personal attention.


Q: There are many charities and causes you could support, and you do. But you clearly have prioritized your time, talents and resources. Why is Valencia one of your priorities?

Public education and the arts are my dual missions, and Valencia allows me to support both. I care about this college because anyone can begin anew at Valencia, whether it’s to sharpen their work skills or tool for a new career. I have heard the college described as the Ellis Island of higher education, and it is true. Valencia’s students come in all shapes, sizes and ages, and from diverse income levels, families and backgrounds. The college’s programs provide opportunities in just about any field you could imagine. How much easier could it be to support an institution that does so much for everyone in every corner of our community?


Q: Why do you think that philanthropy matters?

As a society and as individuals, I believe we have a moral obligation to give and to give back, to protect and keep safe those who need a hand up, and to provide everyone with the opportunity to learn and succeed. This is our American dream. I also believe that giving when no one is looking and telling not a soul is a cornerstone of philanthropy and service.


Q: What are your priority initiatives for your term as foundation board chair?

I would like to build upon the previous good works of the foundation board chairs who walked before me and ensure that the college and all of Central Florida come to know, appreciate, love and support Valencia Foundation. Each of us as board members, donors, students, alumni, retirees, faculty and staff can make it our mission to tell Valencia’s stories in the community. We have to raise the profile of the college and our foundation so that when donors are planning their philanthropy, they understand the vital role the college plays in this community. For our donors, not one penny of your donation is spent on anything other than your intended use, be it scholarships, teaching chairs or programs.


Q: What do you hope your life legacy will be?

When I die, I want people to realize that they have the power to change the world – it’s just going to take awhile and through a lot of small actions. Whether it’s through a hot meal, scholarship or educational workshop, it can be done. We can leave the world a better place than we found it. Mother Teresa once said, “Do no great things. Do small things with great love.”She's betting on Valencia!


Q: What is your fondest hope for Valencia?I would like to win the PowerBall for $200 million so we can build all the campuses and facilities and fund an enormous educational endowment to assist students and the college. But it is my fondest hope that I see the day when any deserving student in our community is able to attend college, and money doesn’t stand in the way. That will take an endowment many times the size of our current one, which is the largest among 1,200 community colleges, as recorded by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Our student need has never been greater, and I’d like to work with my fellow board members, alumni and community partners to ensure we have the resources to keep the doors open for community college students in financial need.


(Reprinted from In the Mix, Volunteer Spotlight, Spring 2009 VITAE Magazine)

She’s betting on Valencia!

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