May 07, 2016
BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
“My mother was a college graduate, and when she talked to my three brothers and me about college, she always said that if she could afford to send only one of us to college, it would be me because I was a woman.”
Dr. Winifred Scott, former head of the Department of Occupational Therapy at UIC, now an organizational development consultant in the area of diversity (and board member of several social service organizations, including the Chicago Childcare Society), seemed just the right person to talk about mothers on their special day today. A strong woman and wonderful mother herself, Wini’s own formidable mother, Doesrous Phillips, helped shape her into the remarkable and visionary community leader she is today. Born in Mississippi in 1900, Doesrous lived nearly to the age of 100, passing away just four days short of her 99th birthday.
Of her unique name, Wini shares that it was “something her mother must have heard over her left shoulder.”
“I think she thought that as a woman, I might end up working in someone’s kitchen without a college education, and she wanted me to become entrepreneurial like herself. She was a missionary on the streets of Chicago and always made us very conscious of people who had less than we did. She won all sorts of awards as a businesswoman as well, and found time to run a rooming house when my brothers and I grew up and moved out. We grew up on 61st and Langley, not far from where I live today.”
Last summer Wini, who holds a PhD in education, finalized a donation to UIC for the Winfried E. Phillips Scott Occupational Therapy Scholarship Fund, earmarked for OT students who have financial need and demonstrate a desire to practice professionally in African-American communities.
“In my work in OT, I always addressed working with disabled people within the social justice arena. I dreamed of having my own neighborhood facility where families could get involved in the lives of relatives with disabilities. Today, as a consultant and in my board work, I encourage people to speak more fluidly about race and class, to name differences and talk about them. I see myself as someone who connects with people across what divides us. You have to know what you are about, what your vision is, because you touch people with that.”
Wini has developed diversity initiatives for many large corporations including the American Hospital Association, the Digital Equipment Corporation, and regional telephone companies within the Bell network. Planting seeds of thought which taken relationships to another level is one of her many gifts.
“With some organizations, I have been able to work over a longer period of time and encourage friendships that can reach a different level. For example, co-workers are assigned a partner with whom they will work for six months. They go places together, to one another’s churches or temples, or to the movies or sports events. You learn how to broach differences in terms of the languages each person is using and finding common interests.”
To Deborah Hagman-Shannon, recently retired Executive Director of the Chicago Childcare Society, Wini is her inspiration.
“I love the way in which she approaches situations and issues – always more questions than answers. She is forward-thinking and interested in solutions, gentle with her responses and her guidance, easy to talk with, and always so wise and intelligent.”
As a Chicago Childcare board member, Wini feels revitalized as she tackles work with the youngest in early Head Start programs – an opportunity to encourage those around her to talk about diversity and use words you might be uncomfortable in saying. Executing the purpose she feels she has is key to Wini’s participation in all aspects of life.
“It is also important to have fun and be fun. I am very passionate about having lunch with my friends. There are five of us and we call ourselves the ‘gourmet girls.’ We hand out recipes and bring that dish. No one knows what the ethnic theme will be until we get there. Despite the fact that we are scattered across the country, my book club of 20 years still convenes. We include Irish, Korean, and African American women, and we call ourselves call ourselves the ‘Spirit Sisters.’
Wini is also passionate as she talks about Doesrous.
“Very important to her was keeping your word. My father was a Pullman porter who went on trips, of course, for his work. One time, I remember he promised my mother a coat and he made sure that he returned from one of those trips with a coat.”
“Regal in appearance and devoted to education” is the description another Chicago Childcare Society board member, Nancy Snyder, uses to describe Wini. Wini says that her growing up was about learning every minute.
“My mother put education first and foremost. Each summer, we visited every museum she had ever heard of; I think she wasn’t quite sure where the Polish Museum was, but we went to every other one I think, including the medical museum. We had music lessons, art classes, and I watched her read the newspapers thoroughly and be on top of current events. She was always telling us to make yourself a real citizen.”
Wini’s daughters, Lynn Scott and Stephanie Klein Wassink, mirror many of their mother’s and grandmother’s entrepreneurial traits and life force. And her four grandchildren add to the joy.
“Doesrous taught me to find out what I am supposed to be doing on this earth and do it,” Wini said. A mother could give no finer gift to her child.