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Spring 2011

West Campus

Alumna’s endowment is music to scholarship honoree’s ears

Ellen Kennaugh, right, estate executor for the late Dr. Flavia Van Dyke, presented the Dr. Flavia J. Van Dyke Endowed Recruitment Scholarship to student Cherity Smythe during a special awards reception at the 2010 West Campus Homecoming.
Cherity Smythe stands with Ellen Kennaugh

When Dr. Flavia Van Dyke graduated from the Davenport Campus as a second- generation chiropractor in 1947, she looked forward to a career utilizing her skilled hands. However, practicing chiropractic at that time in her home state of Washington was more than challenging in large part due to the medical community’s lack of acceptance of chiropractic, which translated into poor public opinion and low utilization.

As a result, Dr. Van Dyke would use her hands not only to adjust others but to supplement her home-based practice by teaching piano. She gave her last lesson at age 95, and even wrote a song, “Palmer Spirit.”

Although Dr. Van Dyke loved teaching piano, chiropractic was her greatest passion. Plus, her perseverance and pioneering spirit earned her an honorary lifetime chiropractic license by the Washington State Chiropractic Association in 1995. Then, prior to her passing in 2006, she requested the establishment of an endowment that would assist women pursuing their D.C. degree at Palmer’s West Campus.

At the 2010 Homecoming, the first recipient of a scholarship from Dr. Van Dyke’s endowment was Cherity Smythe, who, like Dr. Van Dyke, hails from Washington.

“I am thankful to have received this award, and it has motivated me to apply myself, and work as hard as I can in school,” says Ms. Smythe, who selected Palmer’s West Campus after visiting four other chiropractic colleges and finding West Campus staff and students the most friendly and helpful.

“I read about Dr. Van Dyke, and the struggles she went through, and how she was a pioneer—in my home state, for that matter. She was an amazing woman and worked very hard,” adds Ms. Smythe, who hopes to practice in Seattle when she graduates.

Dr. Van Dyke demonstrated “Palmer Spirit” in more than just the song that she wrote. She didn’t let the laws of the time keep her from practicing chiropractic, and she held chauvinistic social laws in even greater contempt. In fact, one of the preprinted certificates in her office referred to “his” practice, which Dr. Van Dyke crossed out and wrote “her.”

Says Ellen Kennaugh, executor of Dr. Van Dyke’s estate, “Flavia was aware of the distinct challenges in pursuing a career in a male-dominated profession, and she was very interested in encouraging other women to fulfill their desire to enter the chiropractic field. As a woman with something of a pioneering spirit herself, we are confident that she would have been pleased to help Palmer expand opportunities in this way.”

Dr. Van Dyke’s career achievements stand as a source of inspiration and motivation on their own merit. And perhaps future recipients of the scholarships awarded from her endowment will be inspired to honor the legacy of this chiropractic pioneer by establishing a similar scholarship program.

“Dr. Van Dyke’s personal story is as impactful as her endowed gift,” says Senior Development Officer Shelley Hammill. “And as we see in Ms. Smythe, both will pass on the values of service to others and the determination so clearly held by Dr. Van Dyke.”

To learn about creating an endowed scholarship in your name, leaving a legacy, or making a contribution, contact Shelley Hammill at (563) 884-5609 or at shelley.hammill@ Or you may contact the Advancement Office at (563) 884-5453 or (800) 722-2586.

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