Saint Anselm College has had a profound influence on the lives of Chris and Dixie Douville. Both members of the class of 1986, they met during their time on the Hilltop, where Dixie studied nursing and Chris participated in the joint engineering 3+2 program at the University of Notre Dame. Throughout a whirlwind of moves, children, and busy careers, the college has remained a constant in their lives, and grounds them with a place of peace, community, and inspiration.
In honor of this connection, and as a tribute to former nursing professor Lucille Lavoie, who passed away last year, the couple recently established the Lucille Lavoie ’57 Nursing Endowed Fund for Innovations in Teaching Excellence. For the Douvilles, the establishment of the fund is a way to honor the Hilltop and the impact Professor Lavoie had on Dixie’s career, as well as inspire others to reconnect and support the nursing department.
Following a Path of Compassion
After graduation, the couple married in October 1988, and spent the next two decades moving for Chris’ work living in seven different states. They had three children, but throughout their adventures Dixie’s commitment to nursing remained strong. She worked at a variety of hospitals, big and small, primarily in intensive and cardiac care.
Today, they call Westport, Conn., home, where Chris is partially retired, and Dixie is a faculty member at Sacred Heart. Dixie often shares stories of Professor Lavoie with her students—in particular, one which involved a clinical experience she had with Professor Lavoie. “We were with a patient in pain who struggled to get comfortable, but I watched Professor Lavoie use therapeutic touch,” she says. According to Dixie, this was not common practice at the time. “To see someone who was trained in that, and for her to do it effectively, and for her to bring calm and comfort to this woman, was probably one of the most impressive things I’ve witnessed as a nursing professional,” she says. “I came to appreciate it even more as I grew in my own practice.”
According to Dixie, this forward thinking was typical of Lavoie. “[Professor Lavoie] was always ahead of her time. She … always encouraged us to not just think about the physical aspect of caring for the patient, but also the spiritual aspect,” says Dixie. “She reinforced the college’s mission for the integration of the liberal arts, faith and service.”
[Professor Lavoie] was always ahead of her time. She ... always encouraged us to not just think about the physical aspect of caring for the patient, but also the spiritual aspect.
- Dixie Douville '86
Giving Back to the Hilltop
With the creation of the Lucille Lavoie ’57 Nursing Endowed Fund for Innovations in Teaching Excellence, the Douvilles hope to not only honor the professor who devoted her life to readying the next generation of student nurses but also support the nursing department’s current needs, and build a foundation for future strength. Already, after the college announced the endowed fund as a part of their 7th annual Days of Giving campaign, the fund has raised more than $58,800.
The establishment of the fund, however, is just one of many ways in which the couple has given back to the Hilltop. Dixie served on the Alumni Council, and in 2011 joined the board of trustees, where she currently serves as secretary. They also began to support the college philanthropically through a variety of campaigns, from athletics to the nursing program. Dixie and Chris see their support as a way to connect to the many different programs and initiatives of the college.
“We found a number of needs we have been able to identify with,” says Chris. “We have gotten so much out of the college, even after we left, and hope that others can find their way back as well.”