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Remembering Mildie Oberkotter

AG Bell remembers Mildie Oberkotter, a generous philanthropist who championed Listening and Spoken Language choices for families her whole life.

Mildred Louise Oberkotter was born May 18, 1935 to Paul and Louise Oberkotter. She was likely born with a severe-to-profound hearing loss but was not diagnosed until she was 2 years old. Her parents knew it was important for Mildie to learn Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) so she could fully participate in their community and the world around her. According to the Oberkotter Foundation website, they recognized the importance of appropriate educational supports for Mildie and sought out professionals, organizations (including AG Bell), tools and resources they needed to ensure Mildie had a complete and comprehensive mainstream education.

In 1985, Mildie’s parents founded the Oberkotter Foundation to fund research in hearing loss and related causes. When Mildie took over as a trustee in 1987, she guided the foundation to focus funding almost entirely on deafness-related issues to ensure families have access to LSL resources and pediatric audiology services.

Mildie joined AG Bell in her 20s and quickly got to work in creating programs that would help other families with children like her. She founded the AG Bell Financial Aid Program, where families can apply for scholarships to help with the costs associated with learning to listen and speak. As AG Bell grew, she became a spokesperson for adult members who are deaf or hard of hearing and helped create a place where they could come together and connect with others who were deaf like them. In the late 1990’s, she served on the AG Bell Board of Directors with distinction.

AG Bell was a frequent recipient of the Oberkotter Foundation’s generosity and the funds received helped create AG Bell’s financial aid programs. “I had the privilege of meeting Mildie early in my tenure as CEO”, recounted Emilio Alonso-Mendoza, Chief Executive Officer of AG Bell. “As we sat in her home’s living room, I could not help but feel the joy and radiance that she emanated. The deaf community has lost an advocate and a generous supporter. AG Bell has lost a friend.”

“When I think of Mildie, I think of the concept of giving”, added Ken Levinson, Board Chair of AG Bell. “Most of us are aware of the tremendous financial support for which she and her Foundation are responsible. As a friend and neighbor, however, I have come to witness a generosity for people that goes beyond. When asked a favor, the word ‘no’ did not exist in her vocabulary. Mildie was never comfortable with the limelight or taking credit for things, but in the background, she was a force enhancing the lives of people around her.”

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell), or to the Weingarten Children’s Center.

Hear more about Mildie’s story, in her own words:

Read more about Mildie’s remarkable life on the Oberkotter Foundation website.

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