The character “Lin” translates to “forest” and has been the Lintilhac family’s Chinese name for three generations.
In 2005 the Lintilhac Foundation celebrated 30 years of charitable giving in Vermont. Established in 1975 by Claire Lintilhac as the launching pad for a nurse-midwife program at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, the Foundation has grown to embrace a broad range of challenges and opportunities, today granting between $1.2 and $1.5 million a year to not-for-profit organizations working for the medical, educational, environmental, and social well-being of Vermont.
The origins of the Foundation are in China and in birthing. Claire Lintilhac was born Claire Malcolm in 1899 in Honan Province to missionaries from Ontario. Her father was a doctor and the family moved frequently, and from an early age Claire became aware of the poverty and medical afflictions common in much of rural China at the time. She followed her father into medicine and became a traveling private-duty nurse. Much of her work was in remote areas and in midwifery – she felt a special calling in helping women and developed a supportive, nurturing approach to her patients and the birthing process.
In 1936 Claire married Francis “Lin” Lintilhac, an executive with the British company Imperial Chemical Industries (I.C.I.). They made their home in Shanghai, and four years later Phil Lintilhac was born. With the onset of World War II Claire and Phil left for New York City but Lin stayed in Shanghai. In 1945 Claire and Phil returned to China, and in 1950 Lin accepted a job offer from Neil Starr, Claire’s brother-in-law and the founder of American Insurance Group (A.I.G.), and the Lintilhacs moved back to New York.
In the mid-1950s the Lintilhacs were introduced to Vermont. Claire felt a kinship with Vermont right away. The pristine quality of Vermont made a strong impression on her, conveying a sense of health that contrasted with the basic conditions of rural Chinese life she had observed growing up and through her years as a private-duty nurse.
In 1957, Lin died suddenly at the age of 49. Phil was at the time in his last year of boarding school; when he finished, he and Claire decided to make a permanent move to Stowe, where they built a house at the foot of Mount Mansfield.
Though Claire quickly became involved in the Stowe community it wasn’t until the early 1970s that she organized major philanthropic activity. She established the Lintilhac Foundation in 1975 to address issues of women’s reproductive freedom, particularly the state of obstetrical care at the time which she found very troubling. Her top priority was to create a nurse-midwife program at Fletcher Allen Health Care, and in 1976 the newly minted Foundation provided major seed funding for the establishment of a four-person, 24-hour nurse-midwife program. Since then the program has flourished: today about 300 babies are delivered annually by midwives at the hospital. In 2004 Fletcher Allen completed construction of a new birthing center, named for Claire, with support from a $500,000 grant from the Foundation.
Claire supported other organizations advocating women’s health and reproductive freedom such as Planned Parenthood, the Lund Family Center, and the Visiting Nurse Association, as well as projects in Stowe including the creation of a walkway on the town’s Mountain Road that would keep pedestrians at a safe distance from traffic. The path eventually became the town’s famed four-season recreational path, one of the first of its kind in the country and a major attraction for locals and tourists. Claire died peacefully in Stowe in 1984, beloved in her community and successful in expanding options for generations of Vermont women.
In the last two years the Foundation has evolved to include not only Phil and Crea to oversee most functions of the Foundation, but their children as well. Louise, President; William, Vice President; and Paul Director. They have expanded the Foundation’s scope to address local scientific, environmental, and educational issues. These include reinstituting lake research at the University of Vermont, new scholarships at UVM, establishing the Vermont Public Radio program Switchboard, the Student Matinee Series at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, biology research at Middlebury College, numerous water and wildlife studies, land conservation initiatives, and many others. The Foundation annually supports over 100 projects and organizations across the state; nearly all its gifts stay in Vermont.
In recent years the Foundation has advocated strongly for clean water, renewable energy, and social justice. Working with organizations including the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Conservation Law Foundation, and others, the Foundation proactively works to improve storm water regulation, de-commission the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, and develop wind power, among other key solutions for a safer environment. The Foundation now also finances the broadcast of the independent news radio program Democracy Now! on central Vermont’s WDEV-FM, adding an influential new voice to the state’s media spectrum.
In addition to supporting its core values of women’s health and education, the Foundation will continue to emphasize independent and informed public dialogue, the scientific and historical infrastructure of the Lake Champlain Basin, and renewable energy to provide a clear and clean path forward.