Memorial Helps Others Follow Their Dreams: The Rebecca Reichert Scholarship Fund
Ball State University has earned many national headlines, but not many endowed funds have received the attention that the Rebecca Reichert Scholarship Fund has garnered. But then again, not all fund honorees have had connections to the rock band the Goo Goo Dolls.
In December 2006, the rock music artists played a benefit concert in Rebecca (Becca) Reichert's honor at the Cleveland House of Blues, donating all proceeds to this scholarship created in her memory.
But that was just the beginning. As more people learned the bittersweet story of the beautiful young woman with the beautiful voice, more funds came rolling in to build the scholarship to keep her name and spirit alive.
"People are deeply moved and saddened by Becca's story, but at the same time, they are inspired by her courage and passion for life and learning," says Kimberly Inks, associate professor in the Ball State University School of Music and one of the faculty co-founders of the scholarship. Having lived in the same Ohio town, Kimberly had personally known Becca since a young age and was a colleague of Becca's mother.
As a Ball State student, Becca was described as a "well-rounded and ambitious musician," a dean's list music education major, and vocal performance minor. Her future looked bright. But Becca's world suddenly took a dramatic turn in her junior year, as she wrote in her professional teaching portfolio:
"In November 2004, I was diagnosed with tongue cancer. This took me away from the last few weeks of my student teaching experience. The surgeries and radiation and chemotherapy were definitely physically and emotionally some of the hardest times I have ever gone through. With every surgery and treatment, I was constantly concerned with the health of my vocal cords because I wanted to be back singing and teaching as soon as I possibly could. It was during this time that I realized how passionate I really am for music education. I feel like I will be a much better teacher because of this."
Despite the many hardships, Becca graduated from Ball State's music education program summa cum laude, the only music education student to do so in May 2005. Unfortunately, her teaching career was cut short due to the progression of the disease.
In September 2006, when it became apparent that she would not overcome the cancer, the idea for creating a scholarship came about. Becca was able to actively participate in building the criteria for her fund. "We asked Becca to identify the criteria, how to go about selecting a recipient, and who should receive it," Kimberly says. "Becca had it back to us in 24 hours."
In her typical upbeat style, Becca planned a celebration of her life for Oct. 24, 2006. Sadly, she passed away 10 days before the event. But the celebration went on as scheduled-as she would have wanted.
"It was a wonderful, uplifting life celebration that she designed. The only difference was that she wasn't there physically," Kimberly says, noting that this event turned into one of many fundraising opportunities for building the scholarship.
"Everything that happened with the fundraising process was the result of something that Becca had done, a person she knew, or some impact she made," Kimberly explains. "I thought it was a true present-day example of paying it forward."
A close friend of Becca's had connections with the Goo Goo Dolls and was responsible for spreading the story to them. "Once they heard the story," Kimberly says, "they said, ‘Oh! We need to do something in her honor!' They raised more than $60,000 with their benefit concert."
Beyond proceeds from the concert, many others have donated to the fund over the years to provide even more assistance to Ball State music education students.
"I can't think of a better way to honor Becca than to contribute to another music student's future," Kimberly says. "In doing so, that student can carry out the mission that Becca couldn't carry herself."