VALERIE J. GREGG MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP FUND
Valerie Jane Gregg, loved deeply by so many, embarked on a new journey on February 12, 2009, after valiantly fighting a tenacious cancer. She was 56 years young, and in the eyes of her many loved ones, left this earth far too soon.
Valerie was a life force in her own right. She approached absolutely everything with a deep passion, leading family, friends and colleagues alike on her many creative adventures. Val worked and played hard, with devotion to all involved. She was a gifted photographer, who in her love for China, published a book of her astounding photographs taken there. Some of these can be seen on this web site.
Valerie’s ability to cultivate and foster friendships, and to forge successful collaborations in her work, brought rich and fulfilling experiences to those of us with whom she worked and played. When it came to the latter, Valerie loved to sing and to dance with a passion. She would do either anywhere when the spirit struck her, the contagion enticing her friends to do what was often foreign to them — abandoning their fears and joining Val in her expressive celebration of life.
Above all, Valerie was a loyal sister, daughter, aunt, friend, colleague, mentor, neighbor and so much more. She was a generous soul, which drew her to this wonderful, educational and loving endeavor. Without Val, we are trying to live the gifts she shared with us — the ability to love deeply, to feel compassion, to bring humor to life, to play with abandon, to judge less, and to risk more. Our hearts grieve and hold Valerie as a part of us always, while our souls honor the mysteries of time, life and death.
How the Valerie J. Gregg Memorial Scholarship Fund Came To Be
After twenty-plus years working for the U.S. Census Bureau, Valerie took a position with the National Science Foundation’s Digital Government Program. There, she brokered partnerships among university information technology researchers, and between researchers and government agencies. Valerie not only fostered many long-lasting partnerships in the U.S., but also began exploring possibilities of matching U.S. student researchers, universities and government officials with mutually-interested partners in other countries. Her passion for promoting these collaborations across borders led Valerie into consulting with U.S. universities that shared this goal. One of these, the Center for Technology in Government (CTG) at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Albany, had a deep interest in joining hands with similar researchers in China and elsewhere.
Lei Zheng, a then-doctoral candidate at CTG, worked with Val and would become a close and very important friend to her. Being a native of China, Lei was instrumental in paving the way for the first CTG delegation trip there, ensuring only the kindest of hospitality throughout their visit. Lei showed Val and his other colleagues many wonderful places and amazing aspects of his country. Valerie fell in love with China and its people from the start, and returned several times to further the growing collaboration between CTG and other students, researchers and Chinese officials. Through her travels, she had written about her love of China and her passion to personally explore ways to assist youth in competing for acceptance into high-quality universities. In Valerie’s words:
“I firmly believe that education is the key to a healthier, safer world. Over the past two years, I’ve been privileged to meet many young, professional Chinese students, professors and government practitioners. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to travel through parts of China, both urban and rural. I am committed to building partnerships between the Chinese and U.S. people. I believe the best way to do this is to seek ways in which I can help young girls complete their high school education. Further, I believe the best way to do this is to provide support that is both financial, but perhaps, even more importantly, to serve as a mentor to young people. Just as our two countries are committed to improving relations, it is critical that everyday people in our countries get to know one another.”
As fortune would have it, Lei had also told Valerie about many other parts of China that she had not yet seen, one of which is the city of Zunyi in Guizhou Province, where his family lived during the Cultural Revolution. Lei introduced Valerie to his friend, Richard Ding, whom he met as a youth in Zunyi. Richard told Val of his father, Mr. Zhusheng Ding, a retired public servant still living in Zunyi, who knew of a school close by where many girls do not have the financial resources to complete high school. And yet another partnership was born!
Valerie described her vision:
- “Mr. Zhusheng Ding will act on my behalf to identify, interview, select and support initially one or two young women who want to passionately pursue their scholastic goals by completing their high school education. The students selected would not otherwise … be in a position to compete for higher education at the university level. Should this individual mentoring and support approach help these young women complete their high school education and compete for college entrance, then I intend to establish an organization that will develop a support network of one-on-one U.S. mentors, who will also provide financial support for deserving young women in China.”
Valerie began by sponsoring three girls in their pursuit of higher education. She paid for their tuition and books, and in return, they committed to apply themselves “to the best of their scholastic ability.” She e-mailed them several times, and talked of seeking girls of the same age in the U.S. who would be interested in engaging in a virtual exchange of experiences with their counterparts in Zunyi. Many of Val’s friends and colleagues expressed the desire to also become involved, thus confirming her expectation that this great effort would take off.
As Val became increasingly sicker, she would tell us numerous times how she needed to write “the girls,” but was unable to type or even dictate after a point. When it became clear to Val that she was dying, she implored a few of us to make sure the girls would be able to complete high school. This was something she would ask over and over during her last few weeks. We promised, and reiterated that promise over and over, because we believed in what Val had started and we knew how incredibly important it was to her. So here we are today, attempting to fulfill Valerie’s dream that she so eloquently described:
“Over the years to come, I believe we will look back on these individual efforts to help promote education and build relationships between Americans and Chinese young people, and we will all be the beneficiaries of a better, more exciting and gracious world.”
Please donate as you wish, and let us know if you are willing to also mentor, or know of a high school girl willing to cultivate and sustain a virtual relationship with a student in Zunyi. We welcome your ideas for fundraising and for expansion of the Memorial Scholarship Fund over time. Please feel free to contact any of the fund management team members:
In the US:
Sue Stendebach — [email protected]
Billy Gregg — [email protected]
In U.S. and/or China:
Sophie Shen– [email protected]
Thank you from all of us.
On August 21, 2009, as I was completing this description, I received an update from our friend, Lei, who received his PhD last May and is now working in Beijing:
- “Richard and I just visited Zunyi and met [with] his father, the three girls, their teachers, the school president and officials from the Department of Education of Zunyi. The visit was very successful, and we have many ideas for the development of the program. I will write you more next week about this. All three girls are wonderful and sweet. I hope one day you can meet them too.”
CharitySmith accepts donations in two ways:
Name of Memorial Fund
CharitySmith Nonprofit Foundation
13100 Filly Lane
Truckee, CA 96161
Use credit card by clicking the link below.
The above Memorial Fund is established as a division of Charitysmith Nonprofit Foundation (EIN 87-0636433). All donations are tax deductible in accordance with federal tax law. Receipts for tax purposes are sent via US Mail within two weeks of donation. Please consider asking if your employer participates in a gift-matching program. If so, your donation may be matched by your employer.
For questions regarding your donation or this memorial fund please contact CharitySmith.