Sally Vaun spent much of her childhood playing in the rolling farmland of Pennsylvania. She worked on her family’s farm tending to chickens, turkeys and sheep. Living in a close-knit community of farmers, Sally often helped her friends with their chores, feeding the chickens and collecting eggs, so they could run off to play or sneak a ride on a nearby cow, climbing up on its bony back and trotting around the pasture to wild giggles.
By the 1960s, Sally was working as a volunteer at Hartford Hospital in the emergency room: cleaning and prepping gurneys, greeting patients, getting them blankets, and helping family members navigate the hospital. It was there that she met William “Bill” Vaun, a young doctor completing his residency.
A year later, they were married. Bill had grown up in Hartford, the son of Greek immigrants. His father died young of throat cancer. “Bill’s family lived modestly,” said Sally. “His mother was not sure he should go to college at all. I think it was losing his father that inspired him to become a doctor. He wanted to help people experiencing illness.”
Bill received the Jacob L. and Lewis Fox Foundation Scholarship to attend Trinity College as an undergraduate and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, he joined the United States Air Force and worked in The Pentagon. Throughout his career, Bill practiced internal medicine, specializing in endocrinology. He taught at St. Luke’s Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, the Hahnemann University Hospital in Pennsylvania, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, focusing on the future of medicine.
Bill was meticulous as a physician and a brilliant diagnostician,” said Sally. “Colleagues brought him the most difficult cases.” Wherever they settled, Sally was busy caring for animals, adopting retired racehorses and volunteering. In New Jersey, Sally organized a horseback riding program for children with physical and developmental disabilities and volunteered with the Junior League. “It was just so heartwarming to see children, who were often in a wheelchair, riding, being so active and feeling more confident. You could see it in their faces. Their teachers would tell me, ‘He is so assertive now. Before he was reluctant to do things. Now he partakes much more in the school.’” When Bill retired, they settled in Norfolk. Sally began to volunteer at the Norfolk Historical Society and the Norfolk Community Association. She served on the Alumni Board of Chase Collegiate School in Waterbury.
In 2014, Bill passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s, a disease he had spent years researching. In 2021, after speaking with her professional advisor and considering the needs of her local community, Sally Vaun established the Northwest CT Community Foundation William and Sally Vaun Scholarship Fund. The fund awards scholarships to students pursuing degrees in medicine and healthcare for both humans and animals and to students pursuing degrees in environmental studies, specifically ecology and environmental sciences.
“Bill and I always knew we wanted to give back, and we were fortunate to be able,” said Sally. “If everybody would give a little, the world, and our little corner of it, would be so much better.” As an endowed fund, the principal of the William and Sally Vaun Scholarship Fund will continue to grow through prudent investment, while annual scholarship awards support local students and strengthen education in the Northwest Corner forever.
“There is a need for medical professionals serving people and animals,” said Sally. “It’s important that we help young people become educated, to see what’s happening and to be able to make things better. People and animals need to be cared for.”
To make a gift to the Northwest CT Community Foundation William and Sally Vaun Scholarship Fund, click Give to a Fund.