PENN STATE—Setting out over a decade ago to turn a personal tragedy into a positive for others, Elizabeth Abraham of Seelyville travelled to Penn State University for the first time in twelve years to witness the culmination of her efforts at the annual “Celebration of Students” scholarship and awards event held earlier this year.
In the summer of 2007, Abraham lost her daughter, Rachael, to a motor vehicle accident.
Rachael was 21 and about to enter her senior year at Penn State University in the College of Health and Human Development.
“She wanted to go into research,” Abraham explained, “She was so focused on her education...She absolutely loved school and loved her books.”
Abraham relayed Rachael was so dedicated to her studies that she once waited three hours to speak with a professor about a question marked wrong on an exam. Meeting with her professor, she discovered the question was correct the whole time, marked wrong by a computer error.
Describing the loss of her daughter in a recent letter as, “unbearable, heart-rending and devastating,” Abraham stated “Sudden death leaves permanent scars reminding us we are mortal, that death doesn't always happen to someone else, that we don't know the 'day or the hour,' that this could happen again to someone we love.”
In a later interview, Abraham explained, “ It's so horrible. You have so much pain that you don't cry, you wail. It's an internal wail that makes you weak.”
Her letter noted such tragedy “...can also prompt us to live each day in a special way, to appreciate life, to deal with unfinished business, to tell our loved ones how much they mean to us, to discover what is important to us and to establish meaningful priorities.”
Following the tragedy, Abraham's meaningful priorities included establishing a memorial fund in her daughter's name.
“I found a positive avenue for my sadness to devote my energy by establishing a memorial scholarship at PSU in Rachael's name in the College of Health and Human Development,” Abraham wrote.
Over the course of five to six years, Abraham hosted several fundraising events, cooking and collecting donations to host dinner events striving to reach the $20,000 minimum threshold for the scholarship to become active.
Having reached the $20,000 goal, Abraham wrote, “I am so blessed to have so many compassionate friends and family come to my aide, along with the several businesses donating to this benefit. My heartfelt thanks still goes out to them.”
Abraham explained the university invests the funds each year to keep the scholarship account from falling below a certain amount and allowing it to remain active in perpetuity.
This year, she decided to visit the school for its Celebration of Students, along with Rachael's boyfriend at the time of her incident, Rick Edelmann.
“I feared the trip since I haven't been there since I cleaned out Rachael's apartment in 2007,” wrote Abraham, “But I thought it would be time to meet some of the students and feel their experiences that Rachael would have felt.”
Abraham noted the experience was “uplifting” later explaining in an interview she was moved by how grateful the students were for receiving aid to attend the university.
“Being around these students and faculty gave me a sense of purpose and my passion and commitment for Rachael's Scholarship continues to make a difference in the lives of today's students,” wrote Abraham.
She later explained she also received a touching letter of appreciation from the recipient of Rachael's scholarship.
Abraham noted her experience seeing the Health and Human Development students' gratitude inspired her to try to raise enough to extend Rachael's scholarship fund to $50,000.
“To be able to carry on my daughter's name in a positive and helpful way is my passion but the common denominator for these students is the desire to help society in a direct and meaningful way,” Abraham wrote.
Donations to the fund are continually being collected.
Those wishing to donate can send funds to: Rachael E. Abraham Scholarship Fund, College of Health and Human Dev. PSU, 325 HHD Bldg., University Park, PA 16802-6509.