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The Story Behind The Louise Tumarkin Zazove Foundation

The Louise Tumarkin Zazove Foundation commemorates the life of a remarkable woman. Born in 1915 in New York City, Louise Tumarkin was the eldest child of poor Russian immigrant parents. During the next twenty years or so, especially during the Depression, the family was forced to move frequently because of their inability to meet rent payments. But her parents always emphasized the importance of education, so no matter where they were living Louise excelled in school, frequently skipping grades. At the time, New York City colleges offered free tuition to qualified applicants, so at the age of sixteen she enrolled in Hunter.


Her dream was to become a physician. But in those days few women, especially Jewish women, were accepted at American medical schools. After being denied admission to several, Louise was accepted at a school overseas, the Royal College of Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland. To pursue her dream there, she financed her education by using money she had earned over the years at various jobs and continued to work while abroad. In addition, her parents scraped together their meager earnings to help.

It wasn't till the second summer that she could afford to come home for a visit. While she was here, German U-boats began attacking American ships, and she was unable to return to Scotland to complete her studies. Devastated, she applied again to American medical schools and was finally accepted at the Chicago Medical School. There she had to begin at the freshman level again. Louise was the only woman in an entering class of 92 students, of whom just 59 made it to graduate with her.

Following medical school graduation, she continued her training at Sydenham Hospital in New York City, which was famous at the time as one of the first hospitals to end segregation of black and white patients. Louise was a strong supporter of that movement, as evidenced by an article in New York newspapers that included her photo. After finishing an internship at Sydenham Hospital, she took postgraduate training there in pediatrics. And soon after she completed her advanced hospital studies, she returned to Chicago, married a medical school classmate, Earl Zazove, and the couple set up their practices.

Over the next seven years they had two children. In 1955, when their daughter was two years old and their son almost four, the couple discovered the boy had a profound bilateral hearing loss. That was totally unexpected, as no one on either side of the family had had any hearing problem.

Louise proceeded to learn everything she could about hearing loss, studied sign language and sought experts' opinions as to the best way to educate her son. Back then, half a century ago, the consensus was that he should be sent to a special school where he'd be taught to live in the world of the deaf. But Louise and her husband made the radical decision to send him through public schools so he could become self-sufficient in the hearing world. Although this was contrary to expert recommendations at the time, the couple was determined to give their son every opportunity. As a result, the boy succeeded in becoming one of the first deaf physicians in the United States, and went on to earn advanced degrees in medicine and business. He now teaches medical student, interns and residents at the University of Michigan Medical School as well as having a professional practice at the University.

In the 1960s, as her children were growing up, Louise added to her educational credentials by completing a psychiatry residency. She then practiced that medical specialty until she retired in the early 1990s. In 1994 she died suddenly and unexpectedly of complications following knee surgery.

At a memorial service three days later, in addition to her family and friends, there was a sizable number of Louise's fellow professionals and patients, evidence of the large number of individuals she had helped during her lifetime. Many of those present donated funds in her memory at the time and further contributions were received over the next several years. Because of her lifelong commitment to education, especially for people with hearing loss, Louise's family, after long consideration, decided to use these contributions to establish the present memorial foundation. It is committed to assisting people with hearing loss by providing educational support to help them succeed in the hearing world, improve the quality of their lives, and contribute more to society.

The Foundation was officially established as a 501(c)3 entity in January 2003 with total assets of approximately $7,000 from contributions at her memorial service. The first year was spent forming an advisory board, clarifying the mission and vision, determining goals for the initial three years and putting up a website. In addition, initial fundraising efforts were undertaken. Seven qualified applicants applied the first year, two of whom were selected for scholarships.

The next two years saw ongoing growth. The Foundation has had a steady increase in its funds, number of applicants, number of scholarships, size of scholarships, and name awareness. Moreover, in 2005, an endowment was established to help ensure the availability of adequate funds in the future.

Currently, the Foundation is in its fifth year of existence. The board has identified specific goals for the next three years, as identified on the home page, that we believe will strengthen our ability to meet our mission.