A Passion for Giving

The Thea and Art Mills Scholarship

“Nothing is more important than these two things—one is the arts, to give a sense of hope and expression, and the other is education, to help people find a way forward in cooperation with others,” said Thea Mills (Cred. ’68). Thea started her teaching career in 1967 as an intern teacher through the UC Davis Education Department. She spent more than 30 years teaching elementary, junior high and high school throughout the Bay Area, and has particularly fond memories of learning alongside her students. “Even in elementary schools I learned as much as the kids because I attended elementary school in the Netherlands and didn’t know much California history,” said Thea. “I learned a lot, had fun and found the work to be very rewarding.”

Thea and her husband Art Mills were inspired to give to the School of Education after watching their daughter Saskia earn her credential and master’s degree from the School and start a second career as a teacher. “The School of Education produces teachers who are analytical but who also know how to give kids hope,” said Thea, “and that’s the best combination. Nothing is more important for kids than to have teachers like that.”

“Charitable giving is substantively important and a passion of ours,” said Art Mills. “We wanted to put the School of Education in our estate so that even when we’re not around, there will still be a gift that reflects the passion we have for supporting graduate student education. Giving is important to us now, and there is no reason we wouldn’t want to do the same in the future after we’ve departed from this planet.”

Thea and Art recently increased the amount of their scholarship as well as bequeathing a gift to the School of Education with the intent to endow their scholarship through their estate. Since establishing the Thea and Art Mills Scholarship in 2013, formerly called the Marten and Nell Bakker Award in honor of Thea’s parents, their gift has helped School of Education students become teachers as a second career. “Providing someone with financial support and the knowledge that there’s somebody who cares and thinks that what they’re doing is worthwhile is why we give,” said Art. “It’s an incredible privilege to be able to meet scholarship students, to hear their dreams, share a human connection and let them know that what they are doing is important. Especially if you’re just starting out, that affirmation is crucial.”

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