Giving in honor of others can energize the spirit of giving within oneself, breathe new life into the idea of philanthropy and inspire the next generation to pay it forward.
Raised on a farm in rural Virginia, three sisters made their way to Radford to prepare for careers dedicated to helping others. Vickie Cundiff Felts ’76, Phyllis Mae Cundiff ’78 and Donna Cundiff Kummer ’79 have embodied the spirit of giving in more ways than one.
When Phyllis passed in 2010, Vickie, Donna, brother Melvin Cundiff and friends chose to honor her in the form of a scholarship at Radford. The Phyllis M. Cundiff Scholarship Fund was established to assist students from Virginia studying to become special education teachers.
Phyllis was a Phi Kappa Phi honor graduate with a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and a master’s degree in communication disorders. Following her graduation from Radford in 1978, she began her long career in Roanoke City Schools. Phyllis served as a speech pathologist, a speech-language coordinator, principal of Grandin Court Elementary School and director of special education and pre-school programs. She was also a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an honor society for women educators, and she served on the Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities.
Phyllis’ loved ones often spoke of her hard work, dedication and love of children.
Phyllis poured her heart and soul into her work. We wanted others to have the opportunity to make a difference in students’ lives as she had done.
“With subsequent visits to campus, I was able to meet the recipients of Phyllis’ scholarship. This provided a lot of comfort after her passing – just knowing that her scholarship could be helping to prepare another Phyllis, someone who would make a difference in the world like she did," said Vickie.
After these visits to campus, Vickie and her husband realized the financial need of many Radford students. This inspired Vickie to establish her own scholarship, the Vickie Cundiff Felts Nursing Scholarship, with preference given to first-generation students from Virginia.
Vickie knew from an early age that she wanted to be a nurse. After earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Radford in 1976, she jumped into her first role as a team leader on a medical/surgical floor – an area of study she was particularly fond of during her time at Radford. Throughout her career, she also worked in home health and in-service education. For the last 25 years of her career, she served as a diabetes educator for the Diabetes Treatment Centers of America, where she was able to combine her love of teaching with her passion for being with patients in the hospital environment.
“My nursing career was such a blessing to me, and I am so thankful to Radford for providing me the opportunity to receive the education and preparation for my career. The fact that Radford’s nursing programs have been ranked as some of the best in Virginia proves how well the students are prepared. I’m very proud of the university, and I want to be able to play a part in making what I was able to experience available for other students,” said Vickie.
Donna has also chosen to establish a scholarship in her area of study: social work. She spent her last semester at Radford completing an internship at Virginia Baptist Children’s Home in Salem, Virginia, now known as HopeTree Family Services. As she says, she never left. Donna continued to work there for 40 years, describing it as the “perfect place” for her. She began in the cottages, working directly with the youth, then served as a social worker, became Director of Emergency Care and finally, served as Director of Residential Services. She always knew she wanted to work in a “helping” field, and giving back in the way of a scholarship is a continuation of that goal.
The Donna Cundiff Kummer Social Work Scholarship was established in honor of her parents and will serve students from Pittsylvania County, the City of Danville and the City of Salem.
“I grew up on a farm, and my parents were very hard-working people. They helped to send the three of us through college, so I felt like this was something I could do for them,” said Donna. “It’s a way to give back, it’s a way to honor my parents and it’s a way to help other people. And that’s exactly what social work was to me – helping other people. In this way, that can go on. It’s important to me that after all of us are gone, our scholarships will represent the three of us sisters who gave back in honor of our parents, and in honor of each other.”
If you would like to learn more about how to establish a scholarship, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540-831-5407.