Family Funerals

Faith Sandler Words of Faith

Carolyn A. Beimdiek (left) and Peggy G. Ross

This week, The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis lost two elders of our 100-year old movement to bolster democracy by providing educational opportunity. Today, I am grieving the loss of Carolyn A. Beimdiek and Peggy G. Ross. And I have a few words to say. Consider this blogpost a virtual family funeral.

While it is true that we are a professionally run nonprofit organization with administrative matters to address, fiduciary responsibility to prove, and metrics to publish, we are also indeed a family and we honor our grief together, even though we can not join the Ross, Toder, or Beimdiek families in person to do so.

Family looks like this…. When a student reaches a significant milestone or comes to see their own power to influence others toward justice, we celebrate them. When a staff member earns a degree, gives birth, purchases a first home, or is able to live free of deportation, we look on proudly (and maybe cheer a bit loudly). When remarkable people join our board or conclude their service in leadership positions, giving time and talent so generously, we are grateful and never let go. And so, when elders of our organizational family die, we pause to remember.

Imagine we are seated in sacred space and I get to take the mic for a moment. Reflect with me on what it is to be amidst your Scholarship Foundation family.

  • Carolyn A. Beimdiek served on The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis Board of Directors from 1993-2002. Her initial link to the family tree were the people of Second Presbyterian Church in the city’s west end. In that way, she is related to Bente Seitz, Marjorie Smith, Marti Hughes, and Buff Buffkin. Carolyn exuded a love of learning. Her willingness to roll up her sleeves and engage directly with community members was remarkable. She saw connections and forged relationships readily. As a board member, Carolyn was much more of a do-er than a talker. After her board service, she remained supportive and present in our work. As I write, I can feel her unbounded energy and hear her voice, subtly and always teaching. Read more about Carolyn here.
  • Peggy G. Ross chaired the 75th anniversary gala of The Scholarship Foundation in 1995 (the first and last, that’s how splendid it was!). After drawing a wonderful crowd and raising $108,000 for students, Peggy consented to join the board of directors. Her initial links to the family tree were through Jewish Hospital Auxiliary. In that way she is related to Mary Tureen, Donna Moog, Audrey Shanfeld, and many others. Peggy co-chaired a capital campaign (with Chuck Cook), supported ScholarShop expansion significantly, and was a brilliant fundraiser (before, during, and after board service). She had high standards, connections she was willing to use, and was so very loyal. For Peggy, community work was an act of total and familial commitment. Peggy’s husband Don, an accomplished Ph. D. engineer, provided us free counsel and even light fixtures he had fashioned. Their daughter, Pam Toder, subsequently served on the board as well. Peggy taught me so much about honoring the dreams of donors, following through with gratitude, and staying connected. As I write, I remember many confidences shared over lunch at Gatesworth, and I can hear her many patient answers to probably dumb questions I called to ask. Read more about Peggy here.

Some days the grief seems too much. As I have sat here this morning drafting this, I have received word of one of our students who recently lost her battle with Lupus. Her mother, also by definition a member of our extended family, has written to ask how to return her daughter’s scholarship grant for the current semester so that it can be directed to another student in need. One of our staff members has the difficult task of responding with the shared grief, condolences, and information the death of this promising young person requires.

Thank you for attending to this grief and loss with me, and for the many ways The Scholarship Foundation family will show up for the next major life event amongst us, whether joyous or profoundly sad. Let’s agree to do what we can to stay well, connected, and committed to caring for each other.

– Faith Sandler