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Cares for One Another

“Most people who talked about Will said he was always smiling,” longtime University of Dayton employee Valerie Mershimer-Mohr said about her son. “He was a classic glass half-full kid.”

Will Mohr was also a talented athlete, excelling in several sports. “It just came naturally to him — always one of the best on any team he played,” Valerie said.

At Tippecanoe High School, he played baseball, basketball and soccer — and it was during a soccer game his senior year when his life was upended. His knee was hurting during the game, so much so that he took himself out. An X-ray and MRI later, Will and his family were forced to come to terms with a stark diagnosis: He had a rare form of pediatric bone cancer, osteosarcoma.

Treatment began immediately and the cancer subsided, so things were looking up for Will when he started at the University of Dayton in the fall of 2008. He had dreams of becoming a middle school social studies teacher and channeling his love of athletics into coaching.

Unfortunately in the middle of his first year, cancer was discovered in his lungs, requiring multiple surgeries to remove. Will battled cancer throughout his time at UD, but still earned his degree in four years and always maintained a positive outlook. Valerie’s close friend and co-worker Paula Sideras attested to Will’s spirit. “Anyone who knew Will would tell you that his smile, his happiness, was infectious. He never let cancer take that from him.”

Throughout his fight, the UD community rallied around Will, Valerie and family, doing all they could to help. Valerie’s colleagues, in particular, were incredibly supportive — from helping with her work duties to providing her with work flexibility and meals during Will’s numerous hospital stays. “I always thought they had my back and Will’s back,” Valerie said.

Sadly, treatment could not stop this cancer, and Will passed away in January 2013. To honor him, Valerie and family set up a scholarship in his name to support aspiring middle-school teachers. Will’s obituary describes the scholarship’s intentions best: “Will did not have the gift of time that allowed him to be a teacher. It is hoped that this scholarship will help others with the same dream.”

Through the remarkable generosity of many, the scholarship was endowed within a few months — and continues to receive support, especially from Valerie’s colleagues across campus. Of the 1,104 gifts to the scholarship since its inception, 809 have come from UD faculty and staff.

Valerie feels blessed to be a part of a work community that supports her and her family so avidly — and that cares about furthering her son’s legacy. “The honor of my life was being Will’s mom,” Valerie said, “but the second honor of my life is having the people I work with continuing to give to his scholarship.”

The Will Mohr Scholarship

ImageThe Will Mohr Scholarship has administered nine scholarship awards, supporting six students including junior Zachary Wasson. With aspirations to teach middle school math or science, Wasson hopes to positively impact young students in urban, underprivileged settings. "It's a deep vocation of mine to change lives at an early age," Wasson said. "Education is the key out of poverty."

As a recipient of Will's scholarship fund, he feels honored to receive such a meaningful award. "It's special to know that I'm furthering his legacy," Wasson said. "And knowing that the scholarship has so much support makes me feel even closer to the UD community, like I really am a part of something so much bigger than myself."

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