Beloved staffer inspires scholarship

An endowed scholarship honors a much-loved CPMS staff member.

In 1987, Kathleen Satterfield arrived in Des Moines ready to dive into her studies in the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery but utterly not ready for Iowa’s winters. Luckily for her, Rebecca Stills, a secretary in the college, came to her rescue with a pair of gloves, a scarf and hat.

“I was working for Becky as a work-study student. She said she had a vested interest in keeping me healthy that winter,” says Satterfield, D.P.M.’91, an adjunct clinical associate professor at Western University College of Podiatric Medicine in Pomona, CA. “I was really touched – and warm.”

Margie Gehringer remembers how welcome Stills, shown below, made her feel when she became director of enrollment development for CPMS and the College of Health Sciences in October 2002. She also recalls how Stills “seemed to know every student.”

“She remembered each candidate who came to interview. She knew about them, their families, the schools they’d attended and where they were from,” says Gehringer, now director of enrollment management for the entire University. “And that was before we had everything captured in a database. She was really professional, organized and very personal.”

Ask anyone who knew Becky Stills, and you’ll hear those words again and again. As secretary, administrative assistant and eventually office coordinator in the CPMS dean’s office, she guided students on their academic journeys and the college in daily operations as well as through an arduous accreditation process.

“It was not a job to her,” says Tom Wicks, D.P.M.’94, a podiatric physician in Chickasha, OK . “It was more of a passion, and it showed.”

That’s why in 2004, a year after cancer tragically took Stills’ life, CPMS Dean R. Tim Yoho, D.P.M., led efforts to establish the Rebecca A. Stills Memorial Scholarship to help outstanding podiatric medicine students. That’s also why the CPMS Alumni Board recently established as its top goal to increase the fund from $61,455 currently to $100,000.

“This goal is our opportunity as alumni, as a college and as a profession to rally together and invest in future podiatric physicians,” says board member Wicks. “It’s an opportunity to make a bold statement.”

Everyone’s mother, but nobody’s fool
Norma Sinn, Stills’ mother, recalls the oldest of her five children as “a second mother” to her siblings. That’s another word often used by CPMS alumni who knew Stills, but not as in “easy pushover.”

“She was kind and had a good sense of humor, but you didn’t try to pull a fast one over on her,” says Satterfield, also a CPMS Alumni Board member. “She could spot a fake from a mile away, and she did not suffer fools lightly.”

Stills applied her no-nonsense pragmatism when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Never a smoker, she “trained everyone on everything she did – she was very focused on making sure all her duties were taken care of,” Gehringer recalls.

Stills’ daughter, Kristin Knode, gave birth to her daughter on March 5, 2003, three and a half months before Stills died.

“She said she’d be there for the baby, and she was,” Knode says. “She was always supportive and was very strong for all of us.”

That included CPMS students. “She died the day of commencement, after the ceremony,” Yoho says. “To this day, I’m convinced she held on so as to not interfere with that week.”

Opportunity for alumni, students
Increasing the Stills Scholarship Fund is a unique opportunity to honor Stills’ memory as well as benefit students, Yoho says. “Most scholarship funds are created with huge gifts,” he notes, “but the Stills Scholarship is more grass-roots, made up of smaller gifts and many gifts.”

And every gift makes a difference. “Any financial relief provided by scholarships is always very helpful,” says Stills Scholarship recipient Valerie Tallerico, D.P.M.’10. “I was honored to be the recipient of a scholarship [named for] an individual who cared greatly for the school and specifically the D.P.M. program.”

Students are supporting the alumni board’s goal, too. The Iowa Podiatric Medical Students Association, the governing body for CPMS students, recently contributed $500 to the Stills Scholarship Fund.

“We are constantly thinking of ways to help the students of CPMS, and the Rebecca Stills Scholarship Fund seemed like the perfect choice,” says IPMSA President Ashley Smith, D.P.M.’12. “We intend to make this a recurring contribution from IPMSA, in hopes of aiding future CPMS students.”

Stills would like that. “Becky is why I came to DMU,” Wicks says. “I love what I’m doing professionally, and Becky is one of the reasons I’m doing it.”

What is an “endowed” fund?
An endowed scholarship fund, like the Stills Fund, can be created at DMU with one or more gifts totaling a minimum of $20,000. That amount can be given in annual payments (for example, $5,000 per year over four years) or as a planned gift (for example, via one’s will). Because only the earnings – not the principal – of endowed funds are paid out as scholarships, they benefit DMU students today and for generations to come.

Learn about other ways your donation can make a difference at DMU.

Scroll to Top