OC celebrates the life of a former student
Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
Oklahoma Christian University students and faculty joined with members of the Edmond community to celebrate the life of former student Rebecca Stafford.
“Rebecca was a student at Oklahoma Christian,” Vice President of Advancement Kent Allen said. “She wasn’t always able to attend classes because in 2010 she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, which is a very serious cancer.”
Stafford lost her battle with cancer on March 10, 2012.
“I was with her when she passed from this life into heaven, and God just seemed so much more real that day,” freshman Victoria Wilguess, a former friend of Rebecca, said. “We were able to tell her that it was okay to go and that we would miss her, but that she needed to go when God called her.”
A reception was held on Oklahoma Christian’s campus on Feb. 27.
This reception honored Stafford and celebrated funds raised for the Rebecca Stafford Endowed Scholarship for Nursing.
“The nursing students and some of the nursing faculty were always really kind and sweet to her,” Allen said. “With so many days and weeks of her life spent in the hospital and nurses providing her primary care, she fell in love with nurses.”
Because of that love for nurses, the Stafford family decided to set up a scholarship for nursing students in her name.
Senior nursing major Kaitlyn Schmeissner attended the reception.
“It was really beautiful the way that her dad described her spirit and how much she truly did love Oklahoma Christian and all the people that took care of her,” Schmeissner said.
Rebecca lived in the freshmen dorms during her year at Oklahoma Christian.
“She loved living in the dorms,” Wilguess said. “She got to feel independent, which when you’re sick you don’t get to feel that way, because you rely on your parents and doctors and nurses all the time. She had to miss a ton of classes, obviously, because of chemo and surgery, but she just loved being on campus.”
Following their daughter’s death, the Staffords searched for a way to give back in her name.
“The reason why they wanted to give money to the nursing program was because they felt that the nurses that took care of their daughter were like a family,” Schmeissner said.
The scholarship will directly be awarded to one full-time student studying nursing at Oklahoma Christian.
Preferably it will be given to a student who has demonstrated a financial need, and it will be available to them in subsequent years.
Over $110,000 has been raised for the scholarship in her honor.
“We really didn’t have any fundraisers,” Allen said. “We just asked people. We had an anonymous donor who said they would match dollar for dollar up to $50,000. About another 11 or $12,000 has come in so far.”
The scholarship will not be available until the 2013-2014 school year.
“For scholarships, we invest the money first so that the amount grows,” Allen said. “All scholarships at Oklahoma Christian operate off of five percent of the total endowment. So there will be $5,000 a year from here on out for the nursing scholarship.”
Most of the people that donated money are either good friends or acquaintances of the Stafford family.
“A good majority of the people that gave, but not all, go to church over at Memorial Road Church of Christ with the Stafford family,” Allen said. “There was also a wonderful gift from Mercy Health Center and a great gift from Integris Baptist Hospital as well as another gift from the Ralph and Maxine Harvey trust.”
Allen said he is pleased with the scholarship fund.
“It’s a great deal,” Allen said. “It brings closure, to some degree, to the Staffords. They know there will always be a scholarship in their daughter’s honor.”
According to some who attended, the scholarship reception was an emotional event.
“Everyone was bawling by the end,” Wilguess said. “The reception was just really uplifting to see how you can go through so much and still have a positive attitude and inspire so many people. Rebecca did that. It was encouraging to see how her legacy is going to live on.”
Rebecca’s story even touched people that didn’t know her.
“I had never met Rebecca, but just hearing about her and learning about her story more in depth, it makes me truly respect her,” Schmeissner said. “I found myself getting emotional when I didn’t even know Rebecca at all.”
Allen said he is proud to have helped make this scholarship posible.
“It was just a great opportunity to see the community of friends at work in making a scholarship come alive for a dear young lady whose life was cut way too short,” Allen said. “Her name will live on through this scholarship.”