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Mildred Voth Schneider ’44

Mildred Schneider ’44. “Plant where you are and you’ll never be hungry.”

Mildred Schneider ’44. “Plant where you are and you’ll never be hungry.”

Born in Salt Creek, Oregon, Mildred graduated valedictorian from Dallas High School in 1938, and after earning a degree as a registered nurse from Emanuel Hospital School of Nursing in Portland, attended Linfield College. She then transferred to Reed College, where she was the school nurse living in the infirmary and taking classes. During this time the 69th Army Air Force Tech Training Detachment were taking pre-meteorology courses, and Mildred enjoyed working with the group of more than 200 men. A sociology/psychology major, she wrote her thesis on prepaid medical care in the Portland area.

In 1944, she married Gilbert Schneider, her high school sweetheart, and two years later the North American Baptist Convention commissioned the couple as missionaries to Cameroon, West Africa. Her new home with its volcanic mountains, rich soil, and crater lakes reminded her of Oregon. They built churches, clinics, schools, and a hospital inspired by one Mildred studied while at Reed, in the town of Vanport, Oregon. In 1948, the Vanport Hospital was swept away with the rest of the town in a flood while she was in Cameroon. Mel’s hospital design, realized at Mbingo, Cameroon, in 1952, has grown to be a major health care facility today. She worked for 10 years at a self-sufficient leprosy control settlement that she helped build.

In Cameroon she had three children, Linda, Evan, and Mary Alice, who died of pneumonia when she was six months old and was buried at sea on the family’s return trip from Africa. One of Mildred’s favorite Cameroon proverbs was, “Plant where you are and you’ll never be hungry.”

In 1963, when their children were ready to start secondary school, the family returned to the United States. Gilbert taught linguistics at Ohio University in Athens, and Mil worked as a psychiatric nurse in the Ohio State Mental Hospital. Upon retiring, they moved first to Lincoln City in 1985, and then to Portland, Oregon. She edited My Favorite African Recipes for the opening of the African Rainforest exhibit at Portland’s Washington Park Zoo.

Mil’s son, Evan, notes that his mother was a faithful Reedie and loved to wear anything with “Reed College” written on it. Evan and his sister, Linda Smalley, survive Mildred.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2016

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