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Legacy of Dr. Robert E. Stitzel Celebrated Through Emergency Fund Endowment

Eligible WVU graduate and professional students who experience temporary financial crisis will benefit from a generous gift from Dr. Judith Gold Stitzel, wife of the late Dr. Robert E. Stitzel. The Dr. Robert E. Stitzel Emergency Fund supports students with documented urgent needs, including emergency shelter, purchasing medicine, and natural disaster financial assistance. This endowment is WVU’s first emergency fund dedicated to graduate and professional students. 

According to the  WVU School of Medicine website, Dr. Robert “Bob” E. Stitzel began his career at WVU in 1965, where he dedicated more than 40 years of service. As an internationally renowned pharmacologist, his research helped WVU’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology program become one of the best in the country.

What “Dr. Bob” loved most about the academy was graduate student education. Twenty-six years into his time at WVU, Dr. Bob joined the Provost’s Office as the Director of Graduate Studies; he led that office until his retirement in 2007. And while Dr. Bob shared his life with his students, it was his family that he cherished most: Dr. Judith Gold Stitzel (Professor Emerita, English and Women’s and Gender Studies; Founding Director, Center for Women’s Studies), his son David, his daughter-in-law Laurel, and his beloved granddaughter Kaya.

High expectations, support, and care to help bring out the best in students was one of Dr. Bob’s greatest gifts. Dr. Judith Stitzel reflected on the importance of remembering her husband’s legacy of service to the graduate and professional student community:

“He was my first supporter, he was my first mentor, he was my first cheerleader…. So from the beginning, this has been his gift—to me and to so many other people in his profession, at the university, in his social life…it was just who he was. He valued and respected others and he saw his support and involvement in graduate education as his responsibility, to mentor the next generation and help bring them to their fullest potential.”

Dr. Bob’s humanitarian nature personally affected many individuals. “Dr. Stitzel helped so many people at WVU— students, faculty, and staff, alike,” says Dr. Katherine Karraker, Associate Provost for Graduate Academic Affairs. “He was an unassuming, self-aware, fair, considerate, intelligent, kind, and funny man. He chose his words carefully; he was always very humble and conscientious.”

WVU’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce McConnell echoed Karraker’s assessment. “Dr. Robert E. Stitzel and Dr. Judith Gold Stitzel are models of Mountaineer excellence. They dedicated their lives to serving others and were specifically committed to supporting students who might not otherwise have opportunities. The Stitzel Emergency Fund is a natural outgrowth of their incredible empathy for the financial realities that many graduate students face."

Of his time spent serving graduate students, he was most thankful for the opportunity to serve on the committees that developed the Center for Black Culture and Research (WVU’s first unit dedicated to cultural diversity), the W.E.B. Du Bois Fellowships for graduate students, and the McNair Scholars program. All of these initiatives mirrored Dr. Bob’s spirit of philanthropy and service. “He wanted to develop human potential from as many sources as possible,” says Dr. Judith Gold Stitzel. “From the beginning he was interested and supportive of women studies…it just didn’t make sense to him to withhold sources of knowledge from people who have been historically disenfranchised and deprived of power.”

Dr. W. Constinia Charbonnette, Director of Graduate Student Funding and Academic Success, Office of Graduate Education and Life, reflects on her memories of Dr. Bob:

“ Bob was a true Mountaineer and scholar— he served WVU with his brilliance and his heart. His support of the graduate and professional student community went far beyond any text in his job description…. He pushed students to reach results of excellence, and he often saw the greatness in graduate and professional students before they saw it in themselves.”

Photo of Dr. Judith Gold Stitzel with Dr. Robert E. Stitzel

Ten years ago, on September 9, 2007, Dr. Bob passed away. His spirit, however, has had an incredible ripple effect—affecting not just those behind him but also those in front. “Bob has been dead 10 years, which seems like an enormously long and an enormously short period of time,” reflects Dr. Judith Gold Stitzel. “It occurred to me somewhere along this time that one of the things that we really want to do that we don’t think of doing is that we want to let the dead grow…. As you continue to live, relive your life with them but also, not just relive it as something in the past but, with them, bring it into the present.”

If you would like to donate to this fund, click  here for more information about the Dr. Robert E. Stitzel Emergency Fund. For more information about the Dr. Robert E. Stitzel Emergency Fund or to learn about other ways to help graduate and professional students, please contact Dr. W. Constinia Charbonnette at  constinia.charbonnette@mail.wvu.edu .

This endowment augments the Provost’s Office financial support of the existing Dr. Robert E. Stitzel Fund. This fund was created in 2013 to assist graduate and professional students who experience unexpected financial emergencies. Fund support can be in the form of a Crisis University tuition waiver or a financial grant.