The School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation established the Sarah E. Gingrich Firebaugh Memorial Scholarship Endowment in June 2008 to support junior and senior students in the Gemstone Program.
Sarah was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania on November 13, 1977, the first child of Franklin and Elizabethann (Betsy) Gingrich. At an early age, Sarah's parents realized she had an amazing amount of energy and sense of adventure, exhibited most evenings by Sarah doing flips off the living room furniture. Frank and Betsy decided the best thing to do for their daughter was to enroll her in gymnastics at age 3.
It was this activity that dictated much of the next 16 years of Sarah's life. She loved competing and striving for excellence, several times performing with injuries that would have sidelined most professional athletes. Not only did Sarah excel in gymnastics, but also most every sport she tried. She excelled in diving, soccer, track and field, and field hockey and during high school, she varsity lettered in each of those five sports.
Athletics was not the only achievement Sarah could credit - she also outshined most of her classmates academically. Graduating in the top five percent of her class, Sarah loved learning because it was as much of a challenge for her as competing on the field.
In the fall of 1996, Sarah entered the University of Maryland, under the banner of a new honors program called Gemstone. She and her classmates were the test case for this new learning style, combining different academic fields of study to look at issues and provide solutions. Their research focused on the polluting of the Chesapeake Bay, a subject that became Sarah's passion. Delving into environmental research and science consumed Sarah, and she talked to everyone about what they could do to help save the Earth.
Again, as in high school, learning was not the only activity that occupied Sarah's time. She and fellow classmates started an A Capella group called "Mockapella" and performed all over campus. Additionally, Sarah was the President of the University's chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
Upon graduating from the University, she continued on to the Pennsylvania State University for her Master's in Environmental Engineering. Taking what she learned from the Gemstone program, she decided to focus her graduate studies on ways to help the environment and studied Green-building and design.
It's also where she met her future husband, Joel Firebaugh. Joel not only shared Sarah's passion and enthusiasm for the environment, but her zest for living and experiencing new things. After graduating, the couple got married, spent six weeks backpacking through Chile for their honeymoon, and upon their return decided to move out West.
So without jobs or much money, they packed up their car and headed towards the setting sun in search of adventure. In less than three months, they had traveled nearly 25,000 miles in a search for their dream lives, jobs and home, and some sightseeing along the way. Sarah and Joel finally decided upon Golden, Colorado, a suburb of Denver that offered a laid-back pace and snow capped mountains.
They became involved in their community through church events and sporting activities. Sarah decided she also wanted to learn how to knit, crochet and scrapbook, fluently speak French and Spanish, and master the kitchen through tantalizing dishes.
Sarah kept learning new things, right up until January 22, 2007 when she died in a tragic car accident. It is a day that remains forever in her family's memory as the day, in which a person who was out to change the world had her life cut abruptly short.
Sarah was loved and is missed by all who knew her. It is in this spirit that her family and friends have come together to honor her memory by establishing an endowed fund to support students at the University of Maryland, College Park. It is their hope to select one student every year that emulates the qualities that made Sarah a great person and a great scholar. She was fearless and courageous, had an awesome sense of adventure, loved both humanity and the Earth, and would do anything to protect the ones she loved. She is survived by her husband, her parents and her brother Crawford and sister Rachael.
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2015 - 2016 Scholar
2013 - 2014 Scholar
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