Updated: Aug 8
On March 17, 2023, Tofaeono Dr. Victor Williams addressed the Rotary Club of Pago Pago regarding his experience receiving a college scholarship from Rotary. Tofaeono was kind enough to provide a copy of his speech which we have posted below.
"I knew nothing about Rotary Scholarships in 1956 when I graduated from the only high school in American Samoa. Not until I met Dr. Donald Rothschild, a psychology professor from Eastern Illinois University who was on sabbatical leave and was hired as our (Government of American Samoa's) Director of Education for 2 years. I delievered our graduation class speech at the graduation ceremony and he was there. He congratulated me on the speech and asked if I had any plans to go to college. I was embarrassed to tell him that my parents could not afford to send me to college so I would be looking for local employment here. There wasn’t very much available for high school graduates in those days.
Life in the military was out for me because I was born in Fiji and was a British subject. My father graduated from the Fiji School of Medicine and was a doctor in the local hospital. He was paid the meager salary of $150 a month and was unable to save money for further education for me. He stressed the importance of getting a good education and hoped that I would somehow get a scholarship from the Government of American Samoa. However, I had to compete with American Samoans who had first priority. Dr. Rothschild directed me to come to his office the next week and he would see about getting some help for me. I guess he thought I was promising because I did very well in high school and he just seemed keenly interested in me.
When I met him in his office, he told me that he was a District Governor for the Rotary Club at Charleston, Illinois. I learned then for the first time about the Rotary Club and its Motto of "Service Above Self;" that Rotarians are volunteers for community service. He had already secured a scholarship for me to attend Eastern Illinois University with all expenses paid. I had to maintain a B average and visit different Rotary District meetings to tell them about American Samoa, its economy and its people. He was leaving American Samoa to return to his teaching post at Eastern. He lived not far from the campus and he expected me to make his home my home which meant mowing the lawn on the weekends.
I majored in zoology thinking of returning home as a science teacher and perhaps doing some work in the health fields. I attended summer schools and finished my bachelors degree in 3 years. I secured an assistantship at the University of Illinois 50 miles from Eastern. It was sad to say goodbye to my adopted parents. Dr. Rothschild helped me with spending money by paying me $20 for mowing his lawn on weekends. We kept in touch when I attended the University of Illinois for my masters degree and even when I went to medical school at Boston University. As a matter of fact, he and his wife and daughter came to my graduation as an MD (Medical Doctor). He whispered in my ear that if someone told him that the green kid he knew in Samoa was going to become a doctor he would not have believed it. We both had a cry over it. Both he and his wife are deceased but I will forever remember them. They were Rotarians and Rotarians have a special place in my heart."