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Dafoe Pledges $30.1 Million Gift to Miami University
Ohio Ag Connection - 04/09/2018

Encouraged by his grandmother to pursue a career in medicine, David Dafoe, class of '84, graduated from Miami University with a degree in zoology.

Dafoe soon discovered a different path to the potential his grandmother saw in him. During a job interview, Dafoe found he had the rare gift of being a "supertaster" with a knack for distinguishing flavor. That led to him founding Louisville-based Flavorman.

From growing up in a low-income family to becoming a successful business owner and one of the country's foremost authorities on flavor, Dafoe has long kept a close association with Miami through speaking engagements, on-campus activities, volunteerism and his work as a member of the Miami University Foundation Board of Directors.

That connection to his beloved alma mater has now grown even deeper. Miami University President Gregory P. Crawford announced a $30.1 million gift from Dafoe to the College of Arts and Science. This significant estate gift will provide scholarships for high-need students and put the dream of attending Miami within financial reach for many.

"Dave's life journey is extraordinary and inspiring," Crawford said. "A volunteer, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist, Dave truly exemplifies Miami Love and Honor. His generosity will make a tremendous difference in the lives of so many students in the years to come. We are delighted he has chosen to give back to his alma mater in this way."

A native of the small town of Pyrites, N.Y., Dafoe moved to Cincinnati at the age of 13 and attended Walnut Hills High School. Following the advice of his grandmother, a pivotal figure in his life who convinced him never to be afraid to try new things, Dafoe began volunteering at The Christ Hospital.

He applied to several colleges in Ohio before finding the right fit at Miami, but Dafoe questioned his ability to afford school. Explaining to his hospital supervisor his financial situation, volunteering turned into a paid position as Dafoe worked weekends, holidays and during the summer. Combining his hospital paychecks with grants and scholarships enabled Dafoe to attend college.

Shy as a child and into his teenage years, Dafoe credits Miami with helping him break out of his shell. Starting in Dennison Hall, a residence hall, in 1980, he formed lifelong friendships that gave him confidence as Miami taught him to think critically and solve problems.

"The academic and social opportunities at Miami changed my life and shaped me as a person," Dafoe said. "Without support, I would not have been able to attend Miami. I want to offer those same opportunities to future generations of Miamians."

Flavorman, Dafoe's beverage development company, has been featured in Bloomberg Businessweek and The New York Times and on the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" and CNN, among others. Opening in 1992 and originally known as Pro-Liquitech, Flavorman grew from a consultation firm to an international, full-service custom product-development and ingredient-supply company.

It all started with a job interview with Fries & Fries, now Givaudan, where Dafoe discovered his talent for taste.

"I owe my professional career to Miami," Dafoe said. "Without that experience, I don't think I would have had the confidence and ability to even go into a job interview. I am thrilled for this gift to come to life to help future students have the same kinds of experience and opportunities Miami provided and continues to provide me."

As the center of Miami's diverse liberal arts curriculum, the College of Arts and Science (CAS) fosters a rigorous intellectual climate that promotes learning and discovery. The CAS offers 63 majors, 58 minors and 10 co-majors to undergraduate students, as well as about 30 master's and 10 doctoral programs.

"Dave has gone from a financially struggling college student to budding entrepreneur to success to ultimately philanthropist, engaging with Miami all along the way," said Tom Herbert, Miami's senior vice president of university advancement. "This generous gift will have an enduring, transformative impact for years to come. Many deserving young men and women will be able to come to Miami who would not have been able to otherwise."

Nationally recognized as one of the top undergraduate institutions in the country, Miami University is an original "Public Ivy," with an undergraduate student body of 17,000. Miami effectively combines a wide range of strong academic programs with the personal attention ordinarily found only at much smaller institutions.

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