Dr. Ula Motekat was a brilliant accounting professor whose charitable gifts to the Hampton Roads Community Foundation will forever benefit eight area nonprofits that meant so much to her.
"Ula was a force of nature," says Laurie Henry, a colleague at Old Dominion University of Motekat, who passed away in 2016 at age 90. When Ula decided to do something she was going to do it. That commitment guided everything Motekat did, including her philanthropy.
Born in Germany in 1926, Motekat learned English from Canadian soldiers after World War II. Moving to the United States in 1952 she earned bachelors and masters degrees in business from the University of Denver and a Ph.D. in accounting from the University of Colorado. She was the first female in Colorado to make the top score on the Certified Public Accounting exam. Honored at a club that didn't allow females, Motekat never forgot having to take the freight elevator to the ceremony.
As a pioneering educator, Motekat was the first female business professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She also was the first female accounting professor at ODU where she taught from 1980 until retiring in 2000. A member of Mensa, the high IQ society, Motekat was a straight talker who demanded excellence. "Students were scared of her but appreciated everything she did," says Henry.
"Ula's major love outside work was classical music," says Ann Swartz-Miller, an ODU business school colleague. She used her accounting skills as treasurer of the Feldman Chamber Music Society and other organizations. Motekat and her younger sister Janne were regulars at concerts and museums. Classical music from WHRO was always playing in their home where they doted on their cats.
In 2006 Motekat was devastated when Janne, her only living relative, passed away. Motekat "had to rethink everything" regarding her estate, she said in an interview. She connected with her community foundation because of her experience as the Feldman treasurer. Each year like clockwork the community foundation sent a grant check to the Feldman. It came from a fund started by Alice Jaffe, who had served with Motekat on the Feldman board and arranged for a charitable bequest to benefit the Feldman through her community foundation.
"I thought if Alice Jaffe can set up that kind of thing, why can't I?" Motekat said. In 2006 she used a tax-deductible Individual Retirement Account distribution to create the Ula Motekat Fund. She designated the Feldman, Chrysler Museum of Art, Virginia Opera and WHRO to forever receive annual grants.
Motekat also arranged for a charitable bequest to start after her death. In 2016 her estate gift created the Ula and Janne Motekat Fund at the community foundation. Each year it provides grants to the organizations Motekat designated the Chrysler Museum of Art, Fred Heutte Center, Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk SPCA, Virginia Beach SPCA, Virginia Opera and WHRO.
Motekat's generosity guarantees that her favorite organizations will always remember her and Janne and know that the sisters' lives were enriched by music, art, animals and nature.
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