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Special social work scholarship named for the late Elizabeth “Liz” Church

A special one-time scholarship award in support of social work majors at Shepherd University has been named for the late Elizabeth “Liz” Church ’78. Fellow Shepherd alumna Carolyn Fleenor ’78 led efforts to fund the Elizabeth Piercy Church Memorial Scholarship for Social Work, with additional contributions from family and friends.

Carolyn and Liz  first met as students at Shepherd College, where they were both majoring in social work.

Elizabeth “Liz” Church ’78

“She was someone I was just drawn to – we had an instant connection,” said Carolyn. “She was so friendly and unassuming and I liked her right from the start.”

The two friends lost touch after graduation but later reconnected when their career paths converged in the mid-1990s. A medical social worker for Meritus Health in Hagerstown, Maryland, Carolyn was attending a resource fair sponsored by the Washington County Commission on Aging when she encountered her old friend, who worked with the organization. The two went on to collaborate throughout the remainder of their careers, often consulting with each other on shared cases. Liz Church passed away suddenly in November 2019.

“Liz had the biggest heart of anyone I knew and she wanted to help everybody,” said Carolyn. “I don’t even know how you’d measure the impact she had on others because she truly helped so many people throughout her life – not only in her job but also, peripherally, for all of us in the Washington County community. She was a gift.”

Carolyn retired in 2020 after a 42-year career as a medical social worker, spending the last 27 years of her career with Meritus Health in Hagerstown. She chose to create the Elizabeth Piercy Church Memorial Scholarship for Social Work to honor the life and legacy of her longtime friend and colleague. Assisted by Liz’s husband, David Church, Carolyn led fundraising efforts to support the award, soliciting gifts from friends, family, and colleagues.

“Liz was one of those rare individuals who was genuinely loved and respected by everyone who knew her,” said Carolyn. “We wanted to do something to honor her memory, and we knew how important social work was to her. That’s what led to the creation of this award.”

The Elizabeth Piercy Church Memorial Scholarship for Social Work will fund two awards in the 2021-2022 academic year.