"Stamp collecting can be a supplement to you if you travel around the world, and help you learn more about other cultures and histories."
This winter, APS Development Assistant Erin Seamans spoke with Diane Van Duzen about the Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship program, a scholarship program run by the American Philatelic Society. YPLF supports young philatelists, offers them unique opportunities to attend stamp shows across the country, and connects them with experienced mentors in the philatelic world.
Diane Van Duzen sponsored the Michael M. Oetken Fellowship (2017) for the YPLF program to support young people in the hobby.
Read the full interview below.
Erin: What led you to donate to the YPLF program for the first time?
Van Duzen: The reason was my dad (Michael Oetken) was an avid stamp collector and so when he passed away in 2016, it just seemed appropriate, because nobody else in our family wanted to continue stamp collecting. So it just seemed like it'd be nice to help young people who are interested, if financially they needed help. And that could be a way to encourage other young people because none of us in the family wanted to carry on with it. So that was the main thing.
My father was a lifelong stamp collector and had a huge collection. So that was the main reason behind it . . . we found out about YPLF because we were putting his collection up for auction and we found out there aren't that many young people getting involved anymore. We realized we wanted to try to support that.
E: That's a wonderful reason to give back to YPLF, and I am sure your father would be really appreciative of that thought. It is difficult to get young people involved with stamp collecting at times and the YPLF program is a phenomenal way to get young people involved and teach them the art of each different track they can take, so we really appreciate your support.
What is your favorite result of the fellowship program to witness?
V: I did receive a thank you letter from Victoria (2017 Michael M. Oetken Fellow) and it which was very nice and explained everything that she was going to do in the program. I was very happy to receive her letter, because until then I didn’t know if the scholarship had been awarded or not. From what I remember, I know she was excited about what lay ahead for her during the year.
What do you hope to accomplish through your philanthropy?
My dad put a lot of time and effort and a lot of love, really, into that collection. He just enjoyed learning about the countries . . . it wasn't about how much value it had, it was more about the history of the country. He would read about the stamps commemorated and just enjoy the beauty of the stamps . . . he especially enjoyed learning about some of the foreign stamps, from countries in Africa and Asia. That's what he was most interested in - the history and culture that you could find while stamp collecting.
So it sounds like watching your father immerse himself in this hobby was very beneficial to you and I can hear the love in that, from just watching him unravel these stories and histories.
He would come home from work in the evening and it would be his way to unwind from the day and just spend an hour, or half an hour, just doing his stamp collecting. We'd say, "Dad's doing his stamp collection, don't touch the desk," because he would spread everything all over the desk. But that was his quiet time to decompress, and we could look but we could not touch because we were little kids.That was a good memory of my childhood, watching him. He was very organized with his stamps. I remember seeing them laid out in neat rows on his desk while he was cataloging them, and enjoying looking at the brightly colored ones.
Those are some lovely memories that you have of your father and stamp collecting. Do you know specifically what kind of stamps your father collected?
Yes. He collected the whole world up to 1960. He had some countries with complete collections up to that year, or nearly complete. He had around 300,000 stamps cataloged and many others awaiting cataloging at the time of his death. Of those 300,000, 170,000 were different. So he had many duplicates. Still, that is a lot of stamps!
Thank you for sharing about your father’s interesting and extensive collection. I am curious: if you were talking to someone about supporting YPLF, what would you tell them?
There are so many other activities for young people to have these days . . . and they don't think of stamp collecting as something cool, but it can be a supplement to you if you travel around the world, and help you learn more about other cultures and histories, especially if you collect international stamps. And it doesn't have to be that expensive either; just buy small amounts and it can be affordable.
I think that is a great sentiment, especially because learning about history in school can sometimes be bland, but stamps bring history alive. And with everyone traveling more remotely, that is a great way to encourage others to take advantage of the experience and learn more about the places they are visiting.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with our audience of alumni, donors, current fellows, and potential applicants?
Encourage older stamp collectors, before their health fails or before it's too late, to involve other relatives, or anybody, in stamp collecting. I know my dad tried a bit, but you know we were busy with family and stuff . . . I'd encourage them to have someone to pass their collection to, or to mentor a future collector, and actively think about that before it's too late.
I think that is a great thing to bring up because I think sometimes we don't think about the future that far ahead, but it's a great thought to encourage mentorship when it comes to the hobbies that we hold dear to us.
Thank you so much for all your support for YPLF and sharing your story and connection with the YPLF program.
Are you wondering if you or someone you know should apply for the Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship Program? Check out the exciting perks of being a Fellow!
- Receive a one-year APS membership
- Choose an area of interest: Author, Curator, Dealer, Designer, Exhibitor & Analyst
- Learn from an adult mentor
- Attend the Great American Stamp Show and Spring Meeting
- Attend Summer Seminar on Philately at the American Philatelic Center
- Interact with stamp collectors from around the United States