Direct Effect

Ted and Kay Gleim Poitras ’53

Photo courtesy of Dickinson Archives & Special Collections.

by Tony Moore

Dickinson’s array of academic and co-curricular programs spans the world, each enriching our students in unique ways, each helping them discover and develop meaningful connections with the wider world. Dickinson also hosts countless speakers, artists and award recipients on campus in an effort to make those same connections, inviting the world to our doorstep.

Bringing one such program to life, Ted and Kay (Gleim) Poitras ’53 began funding the Poitras-Gleim Lecture in 1990, and thanks to their generosity the lectureship has celebrated and enhanced Dickinson’s distinctive, multifaceted educational approach ever since.

“The Poitras-Gleim lecture is an embodiment of all that the liberal arts represents,” says Josh Eisenberg, assistant dean of student leadership and new student programs. “We want our students not only to find their academic passion but to explore the myriad co- and extracurricular opportunities Dickinson provides, and the Poitrases’ continued generosity guarantees that this lecture will influence students for years to come.”

While at Dickinson, Kay was an English major, at a time when her late father, David Gleim, was a chemistry professor at the college (1943-65). She went on to earn a master’s in teaching from Rollins College, serving as an educator for many years. She’s now retired from both teaching and serving as a parish coordinator for St. Alban’s church, near the couple’s central-Florida home. 

The couple met after Kay’s Dickinson days, when each was asked to serve as a substitute player in a local bridge club. Ted says he knew nothing of Kay at the time except that she had waist-length hair, which he spotted across the bridge table. And Kay admits that at first she wasn’t quite “head over teacup” about Ted. But their relationship took hold quickly, and the couple got married in 1973. Ted says it looks like it’ll stick: “I think we might stay married,” he says with a laugh.

A retired real estate developer, Ted directs a number of trusts and charitable funds, giving broadly to philanthropic causes in education and human services, while he and Kay head Encourage Inc., a private foundation that contributes to religious organizations and causes. In the 1990 letter the Poitrases sent to Dickinson along with the initial lectureship gift, the couple laid out the mission of the endeavor that has served Dickinson so well for nearly three decades: The Poitras-Gleim Lectureship seeks to challenge the imagination of Dickinson students and faculty in discovering interesting individuals who cross traditional professional and disciplinary boundaries. ... The mission of a liberal arts college is, after all, the education of a whole person.

For Ted, the mission harkens back to his own days of academia at Brown University, where he earned a B.A. in English. “In the Renaissance, an educated man was considered one who had a broader interest that he could nourish or become a ‘passionate amateur’ in, a committed amateur,” he says, noting that the Poitras-Gleim lecture seeks those “well known for their professional work but who people would be astounded to find out have another field of expertise.”

Showcasing the creative diversity of “passionate amateurs” the lectureship brings to campus, the Poitrases cite Jack Palance (1993), George Takei (1996), John Walsh (2000) and David Oyelowo (2016) as their favorite speakers over the years. It’s a group that’s entertained and enlightened the Dickinson community while bolstering the institution itself.

“The Poitrases have been loyal and imaginative supporters of Dickinson,” says Neil Weissman, provost and dean of the college. “Their lectureship has been both intriguing for attendees and visibility-generating for Dickinson.”

And while Ted is not a Dickinson alumnus, he sees the college’s mission as one worthy of his and Kay’s charitable dollars.

“You want to give where you can have a direct effect,” says Ted, whose giving to Dickinson with Kay is approaching the $1 million mark. “And I can see that our gift can change lives at Dickinson. That same amount is in a much bigger pot at an Ivy League school, so we choose to give where we can see results. And we enjoy doing it.”

Read more from the fall 2017 issue of Dickinson Magazine.


Published November 2, 2017