Sheldon J. Snyder '86 Scholarship Keeps Son's Passion Alive
Twelve years later, Patricia J. Snyder still struggles to piece together the words that describe the incomprehensible loss of her son Sheldon: angering, unfair, heartbreaking. No mother should ever have to lay her child to rest, says the 80-year-old Catasauqua, Pa., resident.
Soft-spoken and careful to keep her composure, Snyder reflects on those dark days in January 1999 when her beautiful, talented boy of 36 was murdered in a workplace shooting in Camarillo, Calif.
"It was such a difficult, terrible time for me. I was so angry, and still I cannot understand why ... "
Coping with Sheldon's death gave rise to thoughts of all the joys in his life, including the passion he had for education, his love of computer science, and his time spent as an undergraduate student at East Stroudsburg University. For Patricia, creating an everlasting memory in Sheldon's name so that other students in that field of study could reach their highest potential just made sense.
In May 1999, four months after his death, Patricia established the Sheldon J. Snyder '86 Memorial Endowed Scholarship.
"ESU did so much for Sheldon. He would not have done well at a bigger school. As a boy he was a bit withdrawn, but at ESU he fit in very well and I saw him open up," says Patricia. Sheldon spent his freshman year living in a dormitory, then as an upperclassman he moved off-campus with friends—the same young men he would reunite with every year after graduation.
"The group would connect and go to New York City on New Year's Eve. He always had so many social connections with friends from ESU. It was wonderful for me to see him break out of his shell."
Since its creation more than a decade ago, Sheldon's memorial scholarship has assisted dozens of young men and women in pursuing their bachelor's degrees in computer science. In October 2010, Patricia notified the ESU Foundation that she wanted to help more, sharing the news that she had made a bequest on behalf of Sheldon's scholarship in her will.
Patricia stays busy these days, enjoying her grandchildren who live in the Lehigh Valley region and her small circle of friends and still running a courier route that takes her on the road up to 120 miles per day. It seemed a natural extension to her satisfying career with the U.S. Postal Service—the very place that likely inspired Sheldon when he was a young man.
"He [Sheldon] worked in a machine shop and would visit me at the post office where I worked to see what I do. It was then he decided he needed to go back to school. He attended the local Community College and then transferred to ESU to study computers," says Patricia.
After graduation Sheldon worked for several large companies, ultimately partnering with a colleague to launch their own business: Postal Innovations, Inc., in Camarillo, Calif. Sheldon's and his partner's programming talents led to the creation of the first computers used by postal workers manning customer service windows, says Patricia.
"He was sharp as a tack ... so talented. Sheldon always did have his father's analytical mind."
The years as a student at ESU contributed to the successful man he became, says Patricia. Sheldon valued his education and did all he could to help students struggling in their computer science courses.
"I was flooded with letters from people telling me what he had done for them—letters from kids who he helped in computer science who said they never would have made it through college without his help. Education meant that much to him."