Legendary Teacher Devoted 67 Years To Her Students – She Just Left Her School $1 Million

Inspiring Stories

Lillian Orlich spent her life teaching. Literally.

For 67 YEARS, “Ms. O” worked as both an educator and counselor at Prince William County’s Schools in Virginia. Education wasn’t just her job, it was her LIFE. And nothing could stop her from showing up for her kids.

Not even death.

Recently, Ms. O passed away at the age of 95. But despite having retired six years earlier (at the ripe young age of 89!), she never forgot her “family.” She left her entire life savings — one million dollars — to the beloved Virginia public school district she called home.


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A Lifetime of Teaching

Lillian Orlich worked 67 years as a teacher and counselor for a Virginia school district.

NBC News

Ms. O began her teaching career in 1950. She started with the Prince William County School District as a high school history teacher when she was 22 and never left.

Later, she became a full-time school counselor because she preferred working one-on-one with students.

For nearly three-quarters of a century, she poured herself into her job and poured her love into her students, often showing up at 3 am and working through the summers.

She impacted generations of kids, working with the grandchildren of some of her first students.

“You know what’s a highlight for me? When a student comes in here and says, ‘Ms. Orlich, you taught my granddad.”

Lillian Orlich via NBC News (2013)

According to her obituary, “her accomplishments, awards, and honors received throughout her lifetime are too numerous to mention.”

What it did mention, however, was just how “remarkable” she was.

“Anyone lucky enough to be taught, counseled, or work with Miss Orlich, will have memories of a fine, remarkable woman that lived a brilliant life,” it read.

This sentiment was echoed by the hundreds of former students who packed the school auditorium bearing her name for her memorial service.

In speech after speech, people shared the incredible impact she had on their lives.

Ms. O lived a simple, frugal life. She never married or had children. Her students and co-workers were her family. So when she died, she left everything, an impressive million bucks, to the ones who mattered most — the kids.

It wasn’t a surprise to the people who knew her best.

“It fits with her legacy,” said Pamela Gardner, Osborn Park High’s Director of Counseling. “Her belief that kids can do and be anything that they want to be. Her advocating for any and everybody, making sure that education was attainable for everyone.”

A Legend in Life…And in Death

Elderly woman wearing a pink sweater.

Lillian Orlich left behind a million dollar legacy to support education

Prince William County Public Schools

According to a news release by the PWCS, Ms. O’s donation will be used to support its education foundation, SPARK.

“The $1 million donation will support SPARK’s purpose to promote, aid, encourage, and engage in educational activities and endeavors for PWCS’ students, teachers, and administrators.”

It will be split across the foundation’s six focus areas — Educator Preparedness, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Education, Social and Emotional Learning, Innovative and Digital Citizenship, Career Pathways to Global Citizens, and Partnerships for School Improvement.

This isn’t Ms. O’s only donation to the school. It joins a scholarship fund that she set up when she retired. Every year, two graduating students who show leadership, hard work, and a passion to serve others receive $2500.

And they have Ms.O to thank.

Teachers Change Lives

There’s no denying that teachers can have a huge impact on our lives. And more often than not, their lessons extend far beyond the classroom walls.

If we’re lucky, we’ll each have a Ms. O in our lives. That one teacher who truly makes a difference, shaping our future and leaving behind a legacy that lasts long after the last school bell tolls.

Over her nearly 70 years as an educator, Ms. O impacted thousands of lives. And now, because of her generous gift, she will continue doing what she loves…even in death.

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