Cover photo for Doris Humes Ponitz's Obituary
Doris Humes Ponitz Profile Photo
1932 Doris 2020

Doris Humes Ponitz

May 5, 1932 — December 1, 2020

PONITZ, Doris Jean Humes, passed peacefully on December 1, 2020 in Dayton, Ohio. She is survived by her husband, Sinclair Community College President Emeritus Dr. David H. Ponitz, daughter Cathy (John Rego) and son David, as well as by the many lives she touched with her own.

From humble beginnings, Doris dedicated her life and career to a variety of humanitarian efforts, the results of which now echo throughout the local and international communities. She was a teacher, community volunteer, philanthropist, and civil rights activist who advocated tirelessly for the arts, education, peace equity, social justice and the rights of children, refugees and women. The lifelong contributions made by Doris Ponitz embodied the notion "think globally, act locally," well before it entered the modern lexicon.

Born in 1932 to Lilah Belle Robinson Humes and Frederic J. Humes in the small town of Marlette, Michigan during the Great Depression, Doris was the bright middle child and only daughter of a working class family who saw promise in her nimble mind and unflappable cheer. She showed an early acumen for music and was given piano lessons. Doris went on to receive a Bachelor's degree in Music Education from Michigan State University, Master’s Degree in Public Education from the University of Michigan, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Dayton.

Classical and choral music would remain a lifelong passion for Doris, who passed on her love of song to her own children, as well as to countless others through her work in the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, public schools, Girl Scouts, and the United Methodist Church. Throughout her life, she filled her home with music, and actively sought harmony with persons from a diverse array of backgrounds.

Doris received hundreds of formal commendations for her work championing women, children, persons of color, and the underserved, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Award, National Council of Community & Justice Friendship Award, the Dayton Region Walk of Fame, the President’s Club Legion of Honor Award, the Dayton Daily News TenTop Women Award, Michigan State University’s Outstanding Alumni Award, and the Centerville Schools Hall Of Fame. She was named a YWCA Woman of Influence in 2002 and received the YWCA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. She was quoted in multiple books and publications, including the New York Times. The Doris and David Ponitz Leadership Scholarship was established at Sinclair Community College in 1998.

Doris Ponitz helped found the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Award, the Dayton International Peace Museum, and led multiple humanitarian missions to Bosnia after the Dayton Agreement helped secure a ceasefire there. She chaired and served on a variety of boards, foundations, and associations, including the League Of Women Voters, national Girl Scout Board, National Conference on Community & Justice, Dayton Peace Accords Project, United Way, Wright-Dunbar Walk Of Fame, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra League Volunteer Council, Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District, Centerville Education Foundation, Engineer’s Club of Dayton, Friendship Force of Dayton, Culture Works, Leadership Dayton, Junior League, Girl Scouts of Buckeye Trails, Clothes That Work, Washington Township-Centerville Diversity Council, Kids Voting Ohio, Centerville Education Foundation, Think-TV/PBS, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Miami Valley Cultural Alliance, Museum Center Foundation, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, CD '96, the celebration of Dayton’s bicentennial, and was appointed by Ohio's governor to the Ohio Educational Broadcasting Network.

She made her first mark in her own community at the age of 14 speaking out publicly for civil rights in 1947. A forerunner in modern women’s rights, she was the adult leader of the first Girl Scout troop to serve as Governor’s Honor Guard in her home state of Michigan. Later, she promoted equity in access to education, the arts, employment opportunities, and the democratic process through innovative programs like Women Who Work, KidsVoting, Symphon-Ears, the Dayton Philharmonic Volunteers Association, and the National Conference Of Community & Justice.

Doris Humes married David Ponitz in 1956, beginning a dynamic partnership centered on an agenda of education, equity, and community, which gained traction over the course of their careers. As a teacher and advocate, Doris endeavored to make positive changes everywhere she lived. She and David lived in Waldron, Michigan where Doris was a music teacher and he was superintendent of schools; in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Doris looked after their first child, Catherine, and David received his doctorate from Harvard University; in Freeport, Illinois, where Doris continued her community service and David served his first presidency at Freeport Community College; in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where together they helped found Washtenaw Community College, and their second child, David, was born; and in Dayton, Ohio, where Doris transformed local priorities and David served as president of Sinclair Community College until his retirement in 1997.

Her adventurous spirit took her to every U.S state and all seven continents. Doris accompanied a zoological expedition to Antarctica, walked the Great Wall of China, swam with turtles in the Galapagos, saw the northern lights in Iceland, and sailed on the Queen Mary II.

Well-known for her optimism, mentoring, and vision for community, the legacy of Doris’ advocacy and integrity is most evident in the improved lives and careers of others. She led by example, enthusiasm, and the sheer force of her will, and inspired many to volunteer. "Onward and upward," was one of her signature phrases, and that is how she lived her life: raising the spirits and fortunes of others, with gratitude for the opportunities she herself was given. Her curious mind was always keen to discover the new. Her generous heart remained open to the experiences and needs of others.

Even after multiple health challenges in recent years, her determination remained an inspiration to her family, friends, and all who encountered her. Like the music and art she loved and championed, the legacy of Doris Humes Ponitz is one of profound beauty. Our sorrow upon her passing is commensurate with the joy she brought to this world.

A Celebration of Life will take place when the world becomes a safer place for us to all be together.

In lieu of flowers, tax deductible donations can be made to carry on her legacy of love through The Doris Ponitz Memorial Fund #8584, c/o The Dayton Foundation (1401 S. Main St., Suite #100, Dayton OH 45409 or online:, The Sinclair Community College Foundation (444 W. Third St., Dayton OH 45402 or online: or to your favorite arts organization. Services are in the care of ROUTSONG FUNERAL HOME, KETTERING. Condolences may be shared with the family at

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