College Park Scholars is grieving over the loss of Marybeth Drechsler Sharp, who died June 5, 2018, after an 18-month battle with breast cancer. She was a longtime graduate assistant on the Scholars central staff who made contributions to the program both professionally and personally.
“If a College Park Scholar is supposed to connect the heart of a strong community with the intellect of academic inquiry, Marybeth showed us what a Scholar could be,” says Scholars Associate Director Dave Eubanks, who worked with Drechsler Sharp. “That was clear to me from my first weeks with Scholars and has been a foundational part of how I have thought about our programs ever since.”
Drechsler Sharp had extensive knowledge of living–learning programs, having first become familiar with College Park Scholars in 2002 when taking a post-master’s class on residence education. “A partner and I had to research one of the national models for living–learning communities—this program at Maryland called ‘College Park Scholars,’” she later relayed. “A 20-page paper and PowerPoint presentation later, I felt like I had learned about something magical and special.” She came to work for Scholars in 2006 as a doctoral student at the University of Maryland (UMD). She participated as a research team member on the National Study of Living–Learning Programs and wrote her dissertation on faculty motives for being involved in living–learning communities.
At Scholars, Drechsler Sharp helped co-found the Peer Mentors initiative, a critical component of the program’s community-building efforts wherein sophomores are paired with incoming first-year Scholars students. She also served as advisor to the Student Advisory Board.
“Marybeth was a vibrant, vivacious and incredibly intelligent addition to our team,” says Martha Baer of UMD’s Center for Leadership & Organizational Change. As then–associate director of Scholars, Baer was Drechsler Sharp’s supervisor for five years. “Students loved her energy and passion; she challenged them to be and do their best. Personally, I will miss Marybeth’s incredible warmth, laughter and sensitivity.”
This sentiment was shared by many Scholars staff and students. “We shared an office, Midwestern roots, countless laughs and a passion for student learning. She mentored me personally and professionally so effortlessly that I didn’t even realize it for a time,” recalls Ben Parks, Scholars assistant director.
“College Park Scholars transformed my UMD experience in a lot of ways but serving on the Scholars Student Activity Committee under the mentorship of Marybeth Drechsler Sharp was one of the most influential,” says Scholars alum Lindsey Winter.
Another Scholars alum, Carleigh Benton, observes, “She was an amazing woman who was there for me in a time that was easily the darkest, loneliest, most confusing time in my life. She will be sorely missed.”
Drechsler Sharp later went on to serve as executive director for the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education. She was recently honored for her contributions as a 2018 American College Personnel Association Diamond Honoree.
“As a scholar and professional, Marybeth generated and sustained invaluable work. As our friend, she reminded us of why that work matters,” says Eubanks.