Helping Out


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Kind acts during the pandemic cement sorority sister-former advisor bond

Jeanne Nagle | June 9, 2020 | Helping Out

There’s a reason why the members of a sorority are called sisters. On college campuses, Greek life brings people with shared interests and vision together in a way that bonds them like family. And no matter where life takes you, or how long you’ve been apart, your sorority family will always have your back.

If there’s any doubt about the veracity of those statements, just listen to what emeritus alumni relations director and former campus sorority advisor Karen Engelhard ’59 has to say about her Delta Zeta “girls” from the 1970s.

“Among them you will find caring, compassionate, talented, funny, successful, supportive, happy, loving, and some extremely organized sisters—and they are sisters in most every way,” says Engelhard, who herself was initiated into Tau Gamma Beta as a student. “They rally to each other’s sides without hesitation.”

Engelhard and her husband, College of Natural Resources emeritus forestry professor Bob Engelhard, recently witnessed sorority solidarity firsthand when they found themselves quarantined in Florida this spring, courtesy of the novel coronavirus.

The Engelhards were well into their annual journey South for the winter when federal social-distancing guidelines were announced in mid-March as a way to stem the COVID-19 infection rate. “We self-quarantined without hesitation,” says Karen, “following the guidelines and before the rush on food, masks, gloves, etc.”

At about the same time, the effects of the coronavirus also were being felt by Jane Stoops Schuh ’77, one of Karen’s former Delta Zeta advisees and the Engelhards’ snowbird neighbors on Marco Island for the past four years. “We did what we needed to do to be careful and safe,” Jane says, referring to herself and her husband, Fred Schuh.

According to Karen, Jane did much more than that. Immediately after the federal guidelines had been put in place, she and Fred volunteered to do the older couple’s shopping, also running small errands for them and others in the area as needed. Jane even took it upon herself to pick up a couple of homemade masks for the Engelhards to wear should they decide to venture out into the world.

“Who could have imagined that this young woman would one day be helping us in a major way in a worldwide pandemic,” marvels Karen. “Pointers helping Pointers!”

Strengthening Pointer and Delta Zeta ties between the two women arguably began the day they ran into each other on a Marco Island beach about 15 years ago. (The Engelhards were enjoying their annual winter trip and, because Jane was still working in marketing and finance management with Volkswagen Group of America, she and Fred were on vacation in the area.) Since then, Karen and Jane have made a point of getting together—whether it’s over lunch in Florida, catching up at a Delta Zeta reunion during Homecoming at Point or while gathering with a small group of Deltas at the Engelhards’ Wisconsin home—whenever they can.

“I find any time spent with Karen and Bob Engelhard is a real treat,” says Jane. Then, putting a hopeful spin on the circumstances of their most recent encounter, she adds, “In a way I’m lucky for this current health situation the nation is facing as it allowed me a chance to see more of Karen.”

“Today, Jane is an even better friend, having shared this life-jarring experience together,” Karen agrees.

Here’s how their pandemic-induced system of neighborliness worked: Karen and Jane would text each other as the latter walked the grocery aisles in search of food and supplies for both couples. Staples in the Englehards’ weekly care packages typically included water, fruit, vegetables “and healthy food,” Karen says. However, there were times when healthy alone wasn’t going to cut it.

“I finally gave in and asked for a bag of candy bars,” Karen confesses, “and she wrote back, ‘Now you’re talking!’”

Handoff of the goods “went down” in a safe and efficient manner. Each week Jane left packages outside the Engelhards’ door, where Karen had placed a reimbursement envelope. “We were the definition of ‘social distancing,’” says Jane.

Even though they kept their distance physically, the women would not be kept apart emotionally. During deliveries, Jane would back away at least the required six feet from Karen’s door, and the two would chat in-person for about 20 minutes or so. Jane says that was all the thanks she needed for her offers of assistance.

“My gift was rewarded by getting to chat with Karen more frequently,” she says.

While Jane tends to downplay her efforts, Karen feels differently. She says she is aware of the dangers of isolation, and she is grateful for all that Jane and Fred have done, to the point of calling them “lifesavers.”

“I referred to Jane and Fred as angels in a group DZ (Delta Zeta) email,” she says. “No surprise to hear back that they had earned their angel wings long ago. What positive, uplifting, unselfish friends.”

But to hear her tell it, she would expect nothing less from any of her former advisees.

“They’re everything I hoped for them back in the 1970s,” Karen says. “I am so proud of them, and happy for the gift of these enduring friendships.”


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