Born in 1901 in the cutover country near Stevens Point, Alvina Breske wouldn’t set foot in a school classroom until decades later, when her own children were old enough to attend.
It’s not that there wasn’t a schoolhouse nearby (there was), or that her parents needed her on the farm (they did, but gladly supported her education), or that she somehow wasn’t clever enough to keep pace (she was — and then some).
The reality was that in the first decade of the 20th century, options were few for hearing-impaired children in parts of rural Wisconsin. Alvina had lost most of her hearing to a bout with diptheria as a toddler. Her parents were encouraged to keep her home.
“She never had the opportunity to go on to school,” says her daughter, Ceil Hintz (left) of Green Bay, “but that was no barrier. Mom was ‘home-schooled’ before it was popular.”
Remarkably, the girl who heard so little, who had no formal education, soon mastered not only the Polish language of her immigrant parents but English and German, as well.
She would marry at 16, to John J. Hintz, and raise three children at their Wausau home. She loved sewing, gardening, crossword puzzles, the card game schafskopf, reading and especially, Ceil says, education.
“I believe that because she was self-educated, herself, she truly valued education and encouraged it all the more for her children,” Ceil says.
Ceil made Mom proud by earning not only her own high school diploma, but associate and bachelor’s degrees, too, and by working professionally as a student academic adviser helping others realize their own college dreams.
She retired in 1997 after nearly 30 years as a staff member with her alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
When Alvina Hintz passed away on April 29, 2003 — just six days shy of her 102nd birthday —Ceil took steps to pay lasting tribute.
With a five-figure gift, she established a permanent scholarship endowment at UW-Green Bay. Today, the Alvina A. Hintz Scholarship is available to help physically challenged college students — including the hearing-impaired — overcome financial need and achieve their educational goals.
“This is something I wanted to do, for Mom, in her memory,” Ceil says. “Just being connected with education, to making a difference in the lives of students, I think she would be thrilled.”
To learn more, add to this fund or create your own scholarship, please contact Dan Spielmann, major gift officer, at (920) 465-5025.