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Shepherd offers unique academic scholarship to female STEM major

Born in 1876, Laura Reisz Dreitzler loved learning and did so throughout her 89-year life, despite having little opportunity to pursue a formal education. Largely self-educated, Ms. Dreitzler passed the Ohio State Teachers Examinations with high marks and taught for several years in a one-room schoolhouse. She was especially drawn to mathematics and physiology, but also enjoyed geography and passed her knowledge of it on to her granddaughter and her friends by telling them adventure stories starring children from her own childhood. Now her granddaughter has created a unique scholarship opportunity for a female West Virginia resident majoring in the field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).

The Laura Reisz Dreitzler Scholarship is a full tuition award that will be funded for four years. The award has been made to Caton Reynolds ’22, a freshman Biology major from Charles Town, WV. Caton is the first in her family to attend college, an award preference expressed by the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“Receiving the Laura Reisz Dreitzler Scholarship has meant so much to my family,” said Caton. “Being the first in my family to attend college was unknown territory for us. My ambition is to become a doctor and receiving this scholarship has allowed me to focus on my schoolwork and pursue this goal without worrying about the financial burdens associated with college.”

Although she lived in a male-dominated world, Ms. Dreitzler was a feminist and suffragist who modeled industry, frugality, generosity, and fierce dedication for her children and grandchildren.

“I feel she would be quite pleased to know that her name is now associated with Shepherd University in support of President Mary J.C. Hendrix’s initiatives to encourage women in the pursuit of careers in the STEM fields,” said her granddaughter, who named the university’s Seeding Your Future initiative as the inspiration behind her scholarship award.

Created by Dr. Sytil Murphy, associate professor of physics, and Dr. Jordan Mader, associate professor of chemistry, Seeding Your Future strives to address the challenge of engaging middle- and high-school-age students in STEM disciplines. The program includes an annual conference for middle school girls and monthly STEM workshops for students in the eighth grade through high school.

Ms. Dreitzler’s granddaughter feels the STEM fields will benefit from more women and vice versa. “STEM is where the high-paying jobs will be,” she said. “I want women to get ahead.”

She hopes her gift will inspire others to give to Shepherd in whatever way they are able to, saying, “It doesn’t have to be much. Every little bit helps.”

The donor also feels Shepherd maintains the resources and support necessary for college students to manage everyday aspects of college life, including how to study, how to set goals for the future, and, above all, knowing when to ask for help. She feels these issues are especially important for first-in-family students to master.

“Nothing would please me more than for Caton to graduate,” she said.