ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Elizabeth Dill Chafcouloff ’68 


Elizabeth Dill Chafcouloff '68

Regis Major: French

Current Employment: Co-founder of Speech Therapy Cambodia

Current city: San Francisco, California

What was your first job after graduating from Regis?
I moved to France after graduating and worked occasionally as a freelance secretary-translator and other pick-up jobs in Paris. After I left Paris I traveled around Europe and North Africa, hitchhiking as hundreds were doing then, from Amsterdam to Marrakech (the circuit!), picking grapes, cherries, garlic, and working in factories before settling in San Francisco in 1972. I spent most of the 70s odd-jobbing, volunteering at the San Francisco Community grocery store, tutoring French, and traveling to Mexico with my little tent for months at a time on a budget of a few hundred dollars. I was 34 before I had my first “real” job as an ESL teacher in Japan. 

How did your experiences and education at Regis shape your life after college and your career path thus far?
My most powerful experience at Regis came about unexpectedly. One day a friend asked if I would like to study in France with her during junior year. The next week, I changed my major to French, and we worked with Sister Juan (Mahan) to bring this about. Since our families did not have the means to send us to France, we worked two or three jobs after school for a year to save money for a year abroad. It is no exaggeration to say that this was a major turning point in my life. From this study in France came a lifelong love of language and travel, and my career has centered around these two major interests. 

What did you learn at Regis that has served you well throughout your life?
In 1966 when Regis helped four girls to journey to France on our own to take part in an unorthodox and unaccredited junior year abroad program, it taught me that it is worth pursuing what you really want even if the odds seem against you. Every time I have come across obstacles in life, I remember how it felt to be on that ocean liner sailing across the Atlantic—what freedom and adventure felt like and the thrill of being in an entirely different culture.

Tell me about your career and your current job. 
After being an ESL teacher in Japan and in the U.S. for 15 years and a speech-language pathologist for 12 years, I retired and founded a nonprofit called Speech Therapy Cambodia in 2013. The organization treats Cambodian patients after strokes who have speech, language, and swallowing disorders. I have spent time in Cambodia over the last six years organizing the program and helped train 14 Cambodian hospital nurses and physical therapists. In all of my careers you can see the love of language, the interest in problem-solving and critical thinking, and the love of travel that I first discovered at Regis. I later discovered that I enjoyed educating people and doing humanitarian work, but I had to mature a bit after college to get there.

What piece of advice do you have for current students? 
What you choose at first may not be what you end up doing later. There are happy accidents—have your antennae out there looking for intriguing opportunities and take chances. When I look back, much of what satisfied me career-wise started out completely unplanned.