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Doris Ponitz: Reminiscences And Anticipations

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Almost ten years in a community - during that time linked closely with positions of intense community involvement. How do you feel about that community? Why leave it? For Doris Ponitz, a woman of many talents whose cohorts wonder how she finds the time to do the many things she does so well, the leaving is not easy. But her husband, David, has taken a new position as president of Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, and will be leaving his post as president of Washtenaw Community College (WCC) this Friday. And the Ponitzes as a couple like challenges. "Although we've lived in Ann Arbor, we've always feit close to people throughout the county," Mrs. Ponitz says. "Our first introduction to Ann Arbor was in being guests at various dinners and meetings around the coúnty when the college began to teil its story - in Manchester, Dexter, Chelsea, Saline and Ypsilanti. "The Girl Scouts did that for us too in communities around the county. "The tremendous interest and support oi the college gave us a very warm feeling that inevitably spilled over on us as people," she says. Why else has Ann Arbor been "special" to the Ponitz family? "You get a variety of cultural and educational opportunities in the stimuiation of the kinds of people who live in Ann Arbor. Mostly it's the people who make it an exciting community in which to live. "But sometimes," she says, "you feel it's not the real world; it's not a real cross-section of the world. "Basically many of the people in this community have many advantages - books, living in the world of ideas and traveling extensively. There's just more available here. It tends to produce a different environment. "There's the international dimensión here too. Lawton Elementary School (which son, David R., attends) is a receiving school for North Campus. We've met and made friendships with international students there. "The aura of Ann Arbor gets ahold of one and makes it difficult to pull away. "We feel some pangs about leaving. But we're all excited about the new challenges, the opportunity to begin anew in another community, too. "It's a necessary part of Dave's career plan - he's always been one who likes challenges," she says. "One of his mementos is an engraved piece from the faculty at Freeport (Illinos) which says, 'There are no problems, only challenges' - one of his favorite sayings. "There have been numerous challenges. "He didn't actively seek the new :ion. He had had numerous offers during ;he past few years and chose this one because of its attractiveness - because of the needs and challenges there. "It's a larger institution in a more urban area. We feit it was a fairly good ;ime to leave. There will always be unfinished business - the building program at WCC we're engaged in now has always been near and dear to him," she says. "But the other consideration was the age of the children (Cathy, 14 and David R., 7). Now is a good time to leave rather than when Cathy is more into her high school career. "We carne here at a time when the average longevity of a college president was about five years and we're in our tenth year now. "We're not leaving through any disenchantment here," she points out. "It's quite the reverse. "Our basic outlook toward the whole experience is an extremely positive and satisfying one. We've had many opportunities to grow and learn in our involvement with people." And involved with people they certainiy have been. Many Ann Arbor residents will remember her contributions to scouting. Mrs. Poni has been a Girl Scout troop leader ever since 1967 except for the one year she was a troop committee memter. "One of her major contributions is her enthusiasm," says Jean Galan, president of the Huron Valley Girl Scout Council. "Her enthusiasm remains high and is so infectious that everybody catches it - from seven-year-olds to those considerably older. "My first recollection of her was leading a group of girls in a sing at day camp. The same kind of enthusiasm she elicited from those grls is the same kind she got from the board (of directors of the Huron Valley Girl Scout Council) in sustaining memberships and getting financial support." In her work with Girl Scouting Mrs. Ponitz has been engaged in all kinds of activities from leading a "sing" for all Ann Arbor Girl Scouts last spring, to helping solve problems with the supervisors of clusters of troops, to being the leader of the first troop of Girl Scouts ever to be honor guards at Fort Mackinac, - to launching area Girl Scouts' participation in the nation's bicentennial. "She gives ideas, grapples with problems and yet turns the whole thing into fun again. She can work with all ages," says Mrs. Galan. " 'Anything is possible' is her point of view." Another woman who has worked with Mrs. Ponitz in scouting recalls, "Doris has spent a great deal of time and effort in working at the administrative level - I wonder how she has found the time - but she's never lost contact with the girls." "Her cadette troop has grown by 20 members in the last year," Mrs. Galan points out, "and the trend is not as great as that number would indicate." Mrs. Ponitz, herself, speaks with pride of the troop - now Cadette Troop 464 at Slauson Middle School - which she has led for the past two years. Members of the troop took a trip to Lansing while they were working on completion of their government badges, she recalls. "They took a tour of the Capítol and noticed that Governor Milliken had no Girl Scout memorabilia in his trophy case - there were things there from the Boy Scouts but none from the Girl Scouts. So they worked to send a plaque from the Huron Valley Girl Scout Council on behalf of all the Girl Scouts in Michigan." Looking back at what she now calis "a fantastic adventure" rr the week the troop served as honor guards on 1 inac Island - she remembers that after Girl Scouts in the state were given the go-ahead to apply as honor guards at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island, there was no hesitation on the part of Troop 464 in applying. "They wrote letters to officials, telling them they were making an application to be honor guards and asking for letters of endorsement," she says' The officials wrote the letters and these were enclosed with the troop's application. "It was very political but it worked," Mrs. Ponitz says. "and it was all girl planned and executed." Their application was accepted and the troop "became the first Girl Scout troop to work as honor guards," Mrs. Ponitz says poudly. Their duties included a daily flag ceremony and assisting the formal guides at the fort in the buildings owned by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission. "The history, service and fellowship I made it a very strengthening experience and also a very strenuous one," she re; calis. (OVR PLEj DOHOTHY PONITZ . . . And she also remembers the troop member, who after becoming official bugler for the week, went out to practice for hours in the woods. And the marching. . . "They did it all and they did a fantastically beautiful job. They were feminine but they also did the marching bit well." The final approval of their efforts, she says, was that the troop was invited to come back this next summer. "They've reapplied and have been accepted again as honor guards," she says. The troop will serve this year from June 28 to July 5. Will she become involved in scouting in Dayton? "There's so much to learn about Ohio - the geography, politics, education - I think I'll probably enjoy a short period of uninvolvement," she says, "so that we can become introduced to the community." After that, she says, "I have no idea what direction my interests will take me, but I'm sure new ones will occur. "I also don't know what sort of role I will be expected of me from the college itself. But inevitably activities of the children will involve me somewhat." Scouting has only been a part of her Ufe here. Mrs. Ponitz has also been working on the completion of a master's degree in education at the University of Michigan and hopes to complete it next I f all by transferring credits back here. "I'm highly motivated," she says, I recalling that she had started a master's I degree before - around 1958, she says, land was two-thirds done before the PoI nitzes left to go to Massachusetts and the I course work "was abandoned then." "That's why I'm very determined to cemplete it now," she says. "My 1 tion is strictly out of an intense interest! because of our involvement in the I changes in education, in'exploring newl concepts in education. I love the ■ pline of learning - the reading and 1 ing that is somehow so difficult when it I is self-imposed." I Mrs. Ponitz recently completed herí student teaching. She's working for her I elementary teaching certifícate in 1 tion to her master's degree. As an 1 gradúate at Michigan State University I she had earned her degree in music 1 catión and her secondary teaching I tificate several years ago. But that's not all she has been involved in, "Anöther big chunk of my involvement I has been work with the First United Methodist Church here," she says. Christian education has been a major interest and she was also the first woman here chosen as a lay lqader - "it had always been a male domain" - and has served on district and conference church committees. In addition to all that, she has also served on the PTO board and has'worked with teachers setting up a student enrichment program at Lawton School. She has also been a board member of the Ypsilanti Community Concert Association (from 1966 to 1969) and is now serving as a board member of the University Musical Society Advisory Grouj--