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Memorial Scholarship Helps Other Students Fulfill FSU Alumna’s Dream
03/17/2016

Memorial Scholarship Helps Other Students Fulfill FSU Alumna’s Dream
Sarah Guthrie following her 2006 graduation.

Some people naturally seem to conquer every challenge life throws at them, no matter how difficult, without ever breaking a sweat. According to one of her oldest friends, Sarah Grace Guthrie, Frostburg State University Class of ’06, had always been one of those people, until she passed away from a sudden illness at the age of 26.

Life for Sarah brought plenty of challenge. While enrolled as a full-time undergraduate at FSU, she gave birth to her son, Elijah.

“I think it’s a testament to her overall work ethic and the type of person she was, because for a lot of people, that’s the end of it,” said longtime friend Jeremy Durst, FSU Class of ’05, of how she handled motherhood and college. “… She kept pushing and worked through it.”

Durst, now a corporal with the FSU Police Department, had been classmates with Sarah since preschool in Kitzmiller in Garrett County. He described their friendship as a “brother-sister type of bond.” While they attended FSU, both worked for the same Garrett County market.

“She was driving 30 minutes just to go to work,” Durst said. “She was very good at balancing out her time. I always admired that about her, that she could handle it so well, because I would always get stressed out. I never really saw her get stressed, which was amazing considering everything on her plate.”

At the time Sarah passed away in 2010, she was raising Elijah while simultaneously teaching reading at Elk Garden Elementary School. She had also re-enrolled at FSU to pursue her master’s degree.

For Sarah’s mother, Deborah Guthrie, the sudden loss was devastating. Caring for Elijah helped distract her from her grief. She has made a point of sharing stories with Elijah about Sarah.

“She was a great mom,” Deborah said. “Her son was six when she passed, but I’m not letting him forget. I’m sure his memory is fading, but she was a great mom. She loved doing things with him. We have loads of pictures of them together. … Her room is still the same, and we go in there and talk to her.”

In 2011, Deborah created the Sarah Grace Guthrie Memorial Scholarship at FSU, which supports graduate students studying to become reading specialists.

“When Sarah passed away, I needed to do something to remember her. It helped me in my grief, and I thought it would help students here. … And it did help me get through it. (The recipients) have all been grateful and sent me thank-you letters. The first two, I got to meet. It made me feel better.”

Durst said the scholarship is a fitting tribute to his lost friend.

“I think that would make her feel really good,” he said. “She put everybody else first: her son, her mother, her father, her brother, her friends, everyone. But still she found time to take care of everything for herself, which was really impressive. This scholarship is really helping someone who can use it, and that’s the type of person that Sarah was, so I think she’d be very happy with it.”

The recipients of Sarah’s award will also carry on her life’s mission: spreading a love of reading to children. According to Deborah, it is a love that Elijah shares. He won’t let Deborah donate any of Sarah’s old books until he has a chance to peruse them.

Deborah hopes that Elijah will someday follow in his mother’s footsteps to attend FSU. The proximity let Sarah commute, helping her bond with Elijah. Their bond made for a very memorable commencement.

“Elijah ran up to her during graduation – it was really nice,” Deborah said. “I mean, she was a single mom trying to become what she wanted to be. She always wanted to be a teacher – since she was a little girl she would play teacher.”

If he does attend FSU, Elijah may find an additional reminder of his mother’s time on campus. In 2014, Deborah planted a living memorial in the FSU Arboretum.

In a quiet, sunny clearing, passersby will find a young white oak tree. A charcoal-colored plaque sits beside it. In golden letters, the plaque reads simply, “In Memory of Sarah Grace Guthrie, Alumni 2006.”

To the people who knew Sarah, those memories remain vivid. Although Durst was busy working and unable to attend Sarah’s viewing, his mother told him that most of their hometown was there. In a community where most people know one another, just about everyone knew Sarah.

“Sarah was a really good person,” said Durst. “She’s probably one of the best people I’ve ever known.”

To support the Sarah Grace Guthrie Memorial Scholarship, visit www.frostburg.edu/foundation/ways-to-give or contact the FSU Foundation at 301-687-4161.

- by Robert Spahr

For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589
E-mail: news@frostburg.edu