FLINT, Michigan – The Ruth Mott Foundation is mourning the loss of beloved trustee and friend Dolores Ennis, whose life of service truly created a better tomorrow for the residents of our community.
After living an active and full life, Dolores Clotiel Watkins Ennis, 88, passed away on Jan. 25, and a memorial service and celebration of her life was held on March 10. (Read her obituary here).
Dolores was elected in 2006 to the Ruth Mott Foundation Board of Trustees, one of many boards to which the treasured civic leader devoted her energy and wisdom. During her lifetime, she also served on the Hurley Board of Managers, Friends of the Flint Public Library, as well as the boards of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Flint Institute of Music, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Flint, Flint Area Educational Foundation, Education Foundation for Flint Community Schools and the United Way of Genesee County.
“Being a volunteer is nothing new to me,” she said in 1990 while serving on the Hurley Board of Managers. “Even though I’ve always had a full time job and raised a family, it’s been a part of my life to be involved in those kinds of things that impact the community.”
A trailblazer in Flint’s education community, Dolores began teaching English and Latin at Whittier Junior High School in 1951 as the first African American secondary teacher in the Flint Community Schools. She was later promoted to Principal of Instruction at Northern High School in 1970 and became the first African American woman to be a Deputy Principal serving at Central High School in 1975. She was later made Executive Director of Middle School and Curriculum Services and retired in 1992 after 41 years.
At the Ruth Mott Foundation, Dolores’ participation on the Board was characterized by her quick wit, warmth and advocacy for the young people of Flint. Her fellow trustees recall her energy and quiet strength.
“What a pistol, shooting straight to the point of any conversation, eager to engage in private give-and-take during breaks and meals if a point still needed to be made or clarified,” wrote Trustee Robert Pestronk. “What a gentle and caring spirit soaked in the local experiences and people of a lifetime and community she loved and who loved her back.”
Our condolences go to Dolores’ family, friends and all who knew and loved her.
The letter below is a tribute written by Maryanne Mott, Chair of the Ruth Mott Foundation Board of Trustees.
To the Family and Friends of Mrs. Dolores Ennis:
Our ties span 60 years starting with our teacher-student relationship at Whittier Junior High. I was in my mid-teens and I now realize she was in her late twenties! An energetic and enthusiastic teacher whatever the subject, Mrs. Ennis was, above all else, keenly interested in each and every pupil. We knew we were valued. And lucky! To this day, it is with great pride and joy that each of her former students states “Mrs. Ennis was MY teacher!” Always fair and eager for our success while never dropping her standards for us or herself, she garnered our full respect and affection.
It was many years later, in 1994, that our paths once again crossed. My mother had formed an Applewood Advisory Board composed of family members and community leaders whom she admired and trusted to assist in her long-term planning for the family’s Applewood estate. Initially those years were devoted to bringing the property back to its prior elegance with an emphasis on the grounds. Mrs. Ennis joined that group in its later years when discussions moved from physical restoration to its inevitable transition from private home to public asset. And how it might best serve the community. As always, she helped sharpen our focus and clarify our ideas. She remained an advisor until the Board was dissolved upon Mrs. Mott’s death in 1999.
It was then that the Ruth Mott Foundation received Mrs. Mott’s bequest including Applewood. In 2006, as it moved from a family Board to one that included non-family members, Mrs. Ennis was elected to the Board of Trustees. In her capacity as trustee she articulated the hopes and aspirations of this community with respect and honesty. Neither shy nor overbearing, she spoke with passion about the development of young people. And there was never a meeting where she did not advocate for public education. A learner as well as a teacher, she remained open to new ideas and approaches and was equally excited to learn from others.
Mrs. Ennis’ service on the board was marked by her thorough preparation, highly pertinent questions, understated manner of suggesting changes or a different perspective. Her mind was quick and her delivery speedy. These qualities were especially helpful as we developed our Strategic Plan just a few years ago. As a key member of our Governance Committee, her involvement in the development of various documents brought us to greater clarity and order.
Beyond grant-making and committee work, Mrs. Ennis took great delight in the gardens of Applewood as they evolved through the seasons and was especially pleased to see Applewood expand its outreach as well as its onsite offerings to the entire community, especially its focus on children and their families.
Over the last several years, Charles Meynet, great grandson of Ruth Mott, attended board and committee meetings as a Board Observer. Seated next to Mrs. Ennis, It was his great fortune to be the most recent family member to be so specially mentored.
As with every student, each and every RMF trustee, staff member and volunteer felt a special personal bond with Mrs. Ennis. For us she was a wonderful colleague and so much more.
Mrs. Ennis lived her life fully. Her excitement about the prospects for this community and for the role the foundation could play in it remained palpable. As always, ready and fully engaged, she participated actively by phone in an hour long RMF committee conference call on Tuesday, January 23. On Thursday she was gone. Oh my how we will miss this remarkable woman.