Wabash Mourns Nancy Doemel
by Steve Charles
June 19, 2016
Wabash mourns the death of Nancy J. Doemel, who established professional grant writing at the College during her 31 years as director of corporate and foundation relations and whose vision and dedication working with organizations throughout Montgomery County embodied the literal meaning of philanthropy as “the love of humanity.”
Nancy retired from Wabash in 2010 along with her husband, Professor Emeritus of Biology Bill Doemel, but continued her service to the community. She was honored in June by the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance with the 2016 Hazelett Award in Grantmaking and by the Montgomery County Community Foundation, which she co-founded.
She died in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis on Saturday.
During three decades working for the College, Nancy raised more than $30 million for everything from pianos in the Fine Arts Center to faculty/student research labs to McGregor lectures to summer science and retention programs to the renovation of Lilly Library.
From 1979 to 1997 she had the additional responsibility at Wabash as part-time Director of the Great Lakes Colleges Association Scotland Program, where she worked with Professor Bill Placher ’70 and scores of students.
Nancy taught high school immediately following her graduation from Wittenberg University in 1966, and being mindful of the needs of students seemed to come naturally to her. “One of the things Wabash has given me that has made me happiest ...is that while I’ve been a grant writer, I’ve also worked with students in many different ways,” she said during her retirement reception in 2010. “And that’s been important to me, because you can sit in an office and write grants for the College, but unless you see those wonderful, screwy 18-year-olds in their shorts and sandals when it’s 20 degrees out, you sort of forget who is at the heart of all this. And I’ve never forgotten because I’m always in touch with them."
At that same celebration, then-Dean of Advancement Joe Emmick ’92 paid tribute to Nancy’s vision of philanthropy: “Nancy is constantly thinking about how to pull together this alumnus with this opportunity, how we can broaden the reach of our grants to involve people across campus and involve our alumni. It’s that kind of reach—that kind of global thinking about Advancement—that I think has been Nancy's deeper value to the College over these past 30 years."
She brought that global thinking to her community. She was a founding member of the Montgomery County Community Foundation (MCCF), the most powerful catalyst for philanthropy in the county, and has served two terms on its board of directors. She advised the Montgomery County Free Clinic Board as they raised over $1.2 million to build a new clinic to serve medical needs of the low-income families and individuals. She worked with her church on a $308,000 capital campaign providing fundraising guidance and grant writing assistance to meet this goal. She also chaired the Economic Health committee of the Montgomery County League of Women Voters for the last five years.
“Nancy was a tremendous leader who through her example showed what it truly means to be a volunteer community worker,” said MCCF Executive Director Kelly Taylor. “Her dedication, patience and hard work got results and set high exemplary standards for those with whom she worked. She made everyone better under her leadership.”
Inspired by the work of former Wabash costume designer Laura Conners, Nancy was also an accomplished quilter, and her art quilts were exhibited in the Athens Art Gallery.
Nancy and Bill’s son, Christopher, grew up around Wabash and sometimes in his father’s science classrooms, and students often found their way to the Doemel’s home for dinner and holidays. It was a kindness remembered years later by Arun Muralidhar ’88: “My first Thanksgiving was at Nancy and Bill’s house. For a foreigner fresh off the boat, nothing could have been more amazing than the warmth extended by them and the fabulous spread. To this day, every time Thanksgiving comes around, I remember their generosity in opening their house to us.”
Christopher died in March 9 of this year.
A memorial service for Nancy will be held July 23 at 3 p.m. in the Wabash Chapel.