The character “Lin” translates to “forest” and has been the Lintilhac family’s Chinese name for three generations.
Claire Malcolm Lintilhac created the Lintilhac Foundation in 1975, mainly to support the pioneering development of a nurse-midwife program at Vermont’s largest medical center in Burlington. Guided since Claire’s passing in 1984 by a second and now a third generation of the Lintilhac family, the foundation today grants over $1 million each year to nonprofit organizations that are working for the well-being of Vermont — its people, communities, democratic systems and natural environment.
The origins of the Lintilhac Foundation are in women’s maternity care in China. Claire Malcolm was born in rural Henan Province in December 1899, the daughter of a medical missionary who devoted most of his career to caring for the Chinese people. The Malcolm family lived in several parts of the country, and through both her father’s practice and her own experiences Claire witnessed the poverty and medical afflictions then common in China.
Claire learned to speak fluent Chinese, and she trained as a nurse at a British hospital in Shanghai. Through the 1920s and early 1930s — very turbulent years in China — she ranged up and down the coast as a traveling private-duty nurse. Working next at a maternity hospital on the northern coast in the mid-1930s, she found she had a passion for helping mothers to safely deliver healthy babies.
In 1936 Claire married Francis “Lin” Lintilhac, an executive with the British firm Imperial Chemical Industries. The couple made their home in Shanghai, where four years later, Philip Lintilhac was born. After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Claire and Philip were evacuated in early 1942 to the U.S., while Lin was interned by the Japanese in Shanghai.
The family returned to Shanghai in 1945; they watched Communist troops march into the city in 1949, and after living for a year under the new regime they left China for good in 1950. Lin accepted a job offer from Neil Starr, Claire’s brother-in-law and the founder of the fast-growing insurance firm American Asiatic Underwriters, or AAU. The Lintilhacs moved to New York City, and in the mid-1950s they began spending vacations and holidays in Stowe, Vermont.
Claire felt a kinship with Vermont; its close communities and healthy engagement with the natural world made a strong impression on her. After Lin died unexpectedly following hip-replacement surgery in 1957, Claire and Phil moved to Stowe and built a home at the foot of Mount Mansfield.
Claire became involved with her new community and made many friends in Stowe. Lin had left her some stock in AAU, which over the years grew into AIG, the giant multinational. Now having the resources to make a difference, Claire began providing financial support to the effort to bring hospital-based nurse midwifery into the American health care system. She worked with the chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the Medical Center Hospital of Vermont (now the University of Vermont Medical Center) to bring nurse-midwives onto the staff of the Burlington hospital, where they quickly began to prove their value.
In 1975, Claire formally established the Lintilhac Foundation, which provided major funding for the development of the Burlington hospital’s nurse-midwifery program. The foundation also supported various community-based projects — notably the development of the Stowe Recreation Path, one of the nation’s first in-town cycling and walking trails.
Claire Lintilhac passed away at home in Stowe in 1984, but the foundation continued its work, now under the stewardship of Phil Lintilhac and his wife, Crea Sopher Lintilhac. The month after Claire’s passing, the first of her three grandchildren, Louise Lintilhac, was born at the Burlington medical center. In 2004, after many years of support for nurse midwifery from the foundation, the newly constructed maternity unit at the medical center was dedicated as the Claire M. Lintilhac Birthing Center.
Under Phil’s guidance and with Crea’s day-to-day leadership, the Lintilhac Foundation expanded its focus to supporting nonprofits and working in pursuit of clean water, renewable energy, land conservation, social justice, environmental science and Lake Champlain research, and stronger systems of public information and democracy. Today Phil and Crea are joined on the board by their grown children, Louise, Will and Paul — and with the new generation’s guidance, the foundation’s priorities now also include sustainable outdoor recreation and healthy local food systems.
See What We Fund for more on the Lintilhac Foundation’s current areas of focus, with examples of the organizations it supports.
Catalysts for Change — the story of how the Lintilhac Foundation and Vermont nonprofits have made a difference
Researched and written by award-winning Vermont author Doug Wilhelm, the book Catalysts for Change (Rootstock Publications, 2022) is an in-depth, highly readable study of change-making — how Vermont nonprofits and the Lintilhac Foundation have together made long-term positive impacts on a range of complex challenges facing the state. It’s available wherever books are sold.
“The great theme of Catalysts for Change is health — health of the individual, of the environment and of the democracy,” said David Moats, Pulitzer Prize-winning former editorial writer for the Rutland Herald. “Doug Wilhelm’s book ranges over the wide landscape of good works promoted by an active and engaged foundation … It’s heartening to see so many people doing so much good.”
“Catalysts for Change is for everyone who cares about making a difference, and about effective ways to bring about long-term, sustainable positive change.”
– Jeffrey Hollender, co-founder, Seventh Generation