Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Teacher, volunteer, donor and a clown

Francine Pease was awarded the S.A. White Award at the 146th Founder’s Day event. Pease has served the Whitewater community since 1966.

April 30, 2014

By Vesna Brajkovic


Growing up poor with only a small chance to make it in higher education, one retired teacher and devoted volunteer has lived her life by the words “pay it forward.”

Francine Pease, a  longtime Whitewater resident and university supporter, will receive the S.A. White Award at the Founder’s Day event on May 3, which celebrates UW-Whitewater’s 146th anniversary.

The award is named after a judge and state lawmaker, Samuel A. White, who, in 1868, was instrumental in the founding of what is now UW-Whitewater.


The award is given to a devoted volunteer and supporter of the university.


Teacher shocked by nomination

Pease said she was surprised to receive the honor and thought the nomination might have been a joke until UW-Whitewater Director of Development Katie Kuznacic assured her it wasn’t.

Previous winners of the S.A. White Award included university chancellors, a president of First Citizen State Bank and people who have endowed art galleries and buildings to the university.

“I have a respect for the nominating committee because they’re not just picking people with deep, deep pockets, but people who have a commitment and passion,” Pease said. “I’m just an ordinary person.”

Pease has endowed two specific scholarships at UW-Whitewater, one in memory of her late husband and UW-W professor, Joseph J. Pease.

The other scholarship in the college of arts and communication is worth $500 for junior and seniors.

Pease said she has given tens of thousands of dollars worth of scholarships in her life to students with the financial need.

She established a skate park in East Troy, helped build a baseball concession stand and donated money to both public and private schools for library books, playground equipment and computers.

But her story is not a typical rags-to-riches story. In fact, Pease insists she’s anything but wealthy.

“I’m not a rich woman, I’m just a school teacher,” Pease said.

She said she has lived modestly on a school teacher’s salary.

Pease said she is able to donate as much as she can and devotes her time and
energy more than she donates money.

“I would never have thought at a young age that I would have had the money to be giving away scholarships,” she said. “But it just happened. I’m going to continue to do this until I can’t any longer.”

Pease emphasizes the importance of “paying it forward.”



Pease’s life changed by scholarship

Growing up as one of eight children, Pease was the first person in her family to attend college after receiving a $100 scholarship to UW-Stevens Point.

She said the day she received the scholarship changed her life forever and is one of the reasons she gives back.

“If it weren’t for other people I wouldn’t be sitting here today,” Pease said. “I’m so lucky.”

Pease said despite growing up in her generation she has always had a strong work ethic.

She said her strong influential mother and the Women’s Movement in the early 1900s emphasized the importance of standing on your own while having a family.

She graduated and became a speech and language pathologist in the East Troy public school system, where she worked for more than 40 years.

When she retired from teaching at the age of 58, she began her long and dedicated life of volunteerism.

“My job was my passion, and when I gave that up I needed something to fill my life, and that was volunteerism,” she said.

Pease, 74, has since dedicated her life to service.

Pease said she has volunteered and supported the Whitewater and East Troy communities, but her true allegiance is to East Troy because of her previous career and her students.

“What strikes me as being so neat is that Francine doesn’t even live in East Troy, and the kids in East Troy, those are her kids,” Susan Budzien friend and building coordinator of the Francine L. Pease Skate Park in East Troy said. “She is the most caring and giving person I have ever met in my entire life. She would do anything for you.”


Volunteer wants to do more

In order to fulfill her passion of helping the “underdog” kids, Pease said she joined the service club Kiwanis International and “eureka!”

“There was so much for me to do,” she said. “I could do things as part of Kiwanis that I couldn’t do as Francine Pease. When you work together in a group, you can make such a difference. And, yes, I’ve done a lot individually. But by working together in a group you can do even more.”

As a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater East Troy, Pease has served as president of the club, lieutenant governor of the Wisconsin district and Scholarship Committee Chairperson.

She has won several awards through Kiwanis including the President’s Award, Case Van Kleef Fellow, the Case Van Kleef Distinguished Fellow and the George W. Hixson, one of the highest honors bestowed to a Kiwanis member.

Mary Niconson, past president of the Kiwanis Club of Greater East Troy, called Pease “one of the most enduring” they have ever known.

“Her positive impact on her students, colleagues and this community will go on forever,” Niconson said in an email. “Francine lives by [the words] ‘it’s for the kids.’ Practicing throughout her teaching and volunteerism [that] when you give a child a chance to learn, experience, dream and succeed, great things will happen.”

Pease has been president of the East Troy Education Foundation and served on numerous boards including the Young Auditorium Advisory Board in Whitewater.


Pease clowns around

Pease’s life of volunteerism isn’t always serious. Her alias, a clown named Ditsy, can be seen at community events and fundraising projects.

Her love of theatre and the arts led Pease to attend clown school one summer, where she originally named her clown persona Happy.

She said she was never satisfied with that name because “everyone’s happy.”

The name Ditsy, which is the clown children of East Troy have grown to know, eventually stuck after her late husband started calling her that.

In 1966, Pease and her late husband moved to Whitewater to build a house where she raised two children, Kurt, 53, and Kristi, 52, and has been a resident ever since.

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Founded 1901
Teacher, volunteer, donor and a clown