Virginia Pabst and her family started the Rebecca E. Pabst Memorial Scholarship Award to honor her daughter, Rebecca, who died unexpectedly in November 1994, less than a year after becoming a student in WesternU’s Physical Therapy program.

Pabst recently addressed scholarship recipients and faculty of the Department of Physical Therapy Education, part of the College of Allied Health Professions, at a reception held in conjunction with the annual Honor’s Day Program.

“You are the people who contribute to your community and make a difference. You’re taking your life and focusing it on helping others,” Pabst said. “I wish you fulfilling careers and lives. I hope you all find contentment.”

The Rebecca E. Pabst Memorial Scholarship Award is given to a second-year Physical Therapy student who is nominated by classmates and the Department of Physical Education Faculty for exhibiting the following characteristics: commitment and enthusiasm for the Physical Therapy profession, compassion, helpfulness to other students and participation in extracurricular activities.

The scholarship was established in 1995, and most of the recipients came to personally thank Virginia Pabst and honor her daughter. The PT department gave Virginia Pabst a heart-to-heart spiral tree with the names of each scholarship recipient hanging in the “branches.”

Rebecca was an avid swimmer, and athletics and health were important to her, said Georgeanne Vlad, PT, MA, Associate Chair/Director of Clinical Education and Associate Professor for the Department of Physical Therapy Education.

“The joy for life she exhibited she shared with classmates,” Vlad said. “She was a good friend to all.”

Kevin Fogard was one of the first Pabst Scholarship recipients in 1995 and graduated from the Physical Therapy Education program in 1996. He is also one of the few recipients who knew Rebecca as a classmate.

“What I take from it over the years is how fragile life is and how special life is,” he said. “We should be appreciative of every day.”

Rebecca always enthusiastically shared her knowledge with classmates in anatomy lab, he said.

“She was an educator and somewhat of a caregiver,” Fogard said. “She would take control and make this a learning process. She did it very well.”

Receiving a memorial scholarship named for a classmate was laden with emotion, Fogard said.

“It was bittersweet,” he said. “It really is touching to see how Rebecca touched lives.”

These scholarship recipients will go out and touch the lives of many patients, so Rebecca’s influence will have a far-reaching impact, Fogard said.

Danielle Newton, who received the Pabst Scholarship in 2006, told Virginia Pabst she didn’t know Rebecca personally, but felt that she knew her a little because they share the same drive and passion to become physical therapists.

“Thank you for supporting that and for helping our dreams come to fruition and reality,” she said.

The most recent scholarship recipient, Brad Shumway, DPT ’09, said it’s energizing when somebody supports you.

“It energizes you to give back to the community and future students,” he said. “That’s what this award is all about.”