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Veronica and Jonathan Schmerling

Elizabeth Schmerling AB '03

​ Her Impact Lives On

Elizabeth Schmerling AB ’03 was a gifted young architect whose joy and enthusiasm for her chosen field touched the lives of everyone around her.  “Architecture was her passion,” says Elizabeth’s mother, Veronica Schmerling.  “Her love of architecture was nurtured from a young age by her grandfather, Daniel Schmerling.  He had a great love of architecture that he shared with Liz.” An artistically talented child, Elizabeth expanded her burgeoning interest in architecture during high school, taking courses in technical drawing, design, and architectural modeling.  “Architecture combined Liz’s talents and interests,” Elizabeth’s father, Jonathan, adds.  “She was interested in art and design, and enjoyed building.”

Elizabeth flourished at Washington University, bonding with her classmates and gaining the respect of her professors.  “The friends she met at Wash U were some of her closest friends,” says Veronica.    “Those years were some of the happiest, most fulfilling years of her short life.”  After graduating cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in architecture, Elizabeth enrolled in the master’s degree program in architecture and landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.  While pursuing her graduate studies, she was diagnosed with brain cancer, and after a courageous 19-month battle, she died in April 2005 at age 23.

Jonathan and Veronica and their son, Bruce, chose to establish the Elizabeth S. Schmerling Endowed Scholarship at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in memory of Elizabeth.  “We have always felt that giving to address education is important.  With Liz’s death, given the wonderful education she acquired at Wash U and her love for the university, we determined that establishing the scholarship fund to award scholarships to deserving and accomplished students was the most appropriate way to honor and remember our daughter,” Jonathan explains.  

Six months after Elizabeth’s death, Veronica began making handmade greeting cards.  “Making cards was a source of release and therapy for me,” she says.  Encouraged by family and friends, Veronica creates the one-of-a-kind cards and sells them at semiannual card parties with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the scholarship fund.  

The Schmerlings have been joined by more than 425 donors including family members and friends who have contributed to the scholarship fund.  Like Veronica, several donors have funneled their creative energy into special fundraising projects.  One such friend, Deb Rutledge, the mother of one of Elizabeth’s classmates, makes quilts for an annual fundraiser and donates the proceeds to the scholarship fund.  “Deb’s son, Matt, was a close friend and classmate,” Veronica explains.  “The fundraiser is one of the ways that Deb has expressed her appreciation for their friendship.”  

Over the years, the scholarship fund has grown significantly from the Schmerlings’ many generous annual gifts and the generosity of family and friends.  Jonathan and Veronica also have designated planned gifts through their estate and a beneficiary designation on a life insurance policy.  To date, 26 scholarships have been awarded from the Elizabeth S. Schmerling Scholarship Fund. Jonathan and Veronica enjoy receiving letters from the recipients and hearing about their studies and aspirations for the future.  “Knowing that the scholarship fund will in perpetuity provide educational opportunities like Liz experienced at Wash U provides some level of comfort,” says Jonathan.

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