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Alumna Emilie Bender helps Indiana residents shape up

Emilie Bender

A life can best be defined by not what one says, but by what one does. For Emilie Bender, BA education ’67, her life’s work speaks volumes.

Since January, Bender has worked as the outreach program director for obesity prevention and community nutrition, a new initiative at the Indiana State Department of Health. The program is a result of Indiana being named the fourth most obese state in the nation. Bender is leading the effort to help communities in 92 Indiana counties address obesity and improve nutrition.

“I am organizing counties in a grassroots effort,” Bender says, noting that she must harness the support of communities, government and businesses. Through public awareness campaigns, grant writing assistance and coordination of existing programs and staff, Bender hopes her approach will empower local communities to tackle the obesity and nutrition issues most relevant to them.

Bender taught in the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne school systems after graduating from DU, and she still maintains her teaching license. Prior to her new position, Bender worked in state agencies dealing with infectious diseases and health care for the uninsured.

Bender says her service-oriented approach to life was shaped by the 1960s. While some focused on politics, many of her DU classmates focused on education. Her sorority, Sigma Kappa, mirrored the feeling of the time: “We focused on doing things for people,” Bender says. “We were a bunch of doers.”

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