From left: Alan and Grace Styer, Lindsay Martin-Styer, Amanda Styer and Jon Styer. The Styer family is seeking to raise $50,000 to start a scholarship in Matthew Styer's name at EMU. Matthew is a 2005 graduate and worked for three years in EMU's marketing and communications department. Photo by Stephen Mitchell, Daily News Record.

Family, EMU Seek To Establish Endowment In Honor Of ‘05 Grad

Matt Styer’s obsession growing up was National Geographic.

He not only wanted to read the magazine, he “had” to, said his mother, Grace.

“His goal was to work for them,” she said.

Leukemia cut short the 30-year-old’s life pursuit on Dec. 19, 2011. But not before Styer “created his own” version of the magazine, his mother said, in his redesign of Crossroads, the alumni publication at Eastern Mennonite University. Now his family and alma mater are working to ensure Styer’s legacy will live on in someone else’s dream.

At A Good Crossroads

Styer’s family and EMU have started a fundraising campaign to establish the Matthew Alan Styer endowed scholarship fund. They seek $50,000, which is the minimum necessary to create a named endowed scholarship, said Phil Helmuth, the university’s executive director of development.

Alumni from the classes of 2004, 2005 and 2006 received a brochure seeking financial assistance, and EMU has set up a website for those wishing to donate to the fund.

Styer graduated in 2005.

The scholarship would be awarded to at least one rising senior majoring in the visual arts, which Styer studied. After graduation, he worked for EMU’s marketing and communications department as a videographer, designer and photographer until 2008.

Styer was a semester shy of finishing a master’s program in digital design at Philadelphia University when he died.

During his career at EMU, Styer’s accomplishments included the redesign of Crossroads, the quarterly alumni magazine.

He rebranded the publication to give it a fresh look and to feature a single topic each month, putting more focus on photography, the school and family members say.

“He created his own National Geographic,” his mother said.

Styer’s younger brother, Jon, took over Styer’s job when Matt left for graduate school.

“I was his intern,” said Jon, 28, a 2007 EMU graduate who still works there.

Styer was diagnosed with leukemia on May 15, 2010. He was the first patient with acute lymphoblastic leukemia — a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow — to be treated with an experimental type of therapy using modified T cells, his mother said.

“He had a kind [of cancer] that was just superaggressive,” she said.

In the treatment, doctors removed billions of the cells, which are a kind of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors, and gave them new genes to program the cells to attack the cancer.

Styer’s brother donated healthy cells.

But in late 2011, doctors found that the T cells were not working effectively.

After an 18-month battle with cancer, Styer died in December 2011.

Telling EMU’s Story

Family members want to give back to EMU because they say Styer found his direction there. His mother graduated from EMU in 1979, followed by Jon five years ago and sister Amanda in 2012.

Styer also met his wife, Lindsay, while studying at EMU. They married in September 2011, and she now works at the university.

Styer’s mother and father, Alan, live in Columbiana, Ohio.

Helmuth said many EMU departments have endowed scholarships, and the school could work on as many as 10 new ones in a year.

But it’s less common for the fund to be in memory of someone, he said.

And none honors a man whom the school credits as the first person who combined various skills to tell EMU’s story.

“We felt like EMU is where Matt found his passion and talent,” his father said. “He got a lot of positive reinforcement.”

Courtesy Daily News Record, Dec. 27, 2012

Support the Fund

Read more about the fund and make a contribution online here.

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