The Sheryl Lanman Nichols Memorial Fellowship to Empower Survivors of Domestic Violence carries on the legacy of Sheryl Lanman MSW’10 (pictured, right) by training social work graduate students to support and advocate for survivors of domestic violence. This fellowship was established by Sheryl’s parents Sandra DC ’72, SC&I ’03 and Steven RC ’71 Lanman, husband Justin Nichols, and friend Marissa Lieberman Broman RC ’03.
Marissa and her husband Adam Broman generously pledged $5,000 to match donations made to this fellowship fund for Rutgers Giving Day on March 24. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Marissa about her friendship with Sheryl, her time at Rutgers, and her hopes for the fellowship’s impact.
How did you meet Sheryl?
I met Sheryl at a sleepaway camp when we were in middle school. A few years later, we ended up being in some of the same classes at East Brunswick High School. Sheryl often helped me with my homework, especially for our math class. She was very meticulous in her thinking. We would spend hours on the phone after school, talking and doing our homework together.
Tell us about your time at Rutgers and beyond.
Sheryl and I graduated from East Brunswick High School in 1999, and I went to Israel while Sheryl attended Rutgers. A year later, I went on to study psychology at Rutgers. Later, I earned Master of Arts degrees in education and speech pathology and began working as an in-classroom teacher for five years. I’ve been working as a speech pathologist since 2011, most recently with middle school students. It's really rewarding, and I enjoy it a lot.
What would you like people to know about Sheryl?
Sheryl was an incredible, selfless person. The fact that she chose to pursue a career in social work speaks to that. She also became a vegan after college as a way to do no harm on Earth, which was very beautiful.
Sheryl was inspirational throughout her entire illness. Towards the end of her life, she was still doing work within breast cancer survivor groups, always trying to help others. Even when her doctor said it was time for her to go on hospice, she insisted on being positive. Sheryl told us she was still enjoying aspects of her life, and she planned to continue to do so. When I saw her for the last time, it felt like I couldn’t let that go – all of her goodness, positivity, and passion.
She was a really inspiring person, but she was also a total character. Sheryl would often have laughing fits and turn beet red. It was hilarious and incredible that she could feel so much joy. One of the great things was that Sheryl was always able to laugh at herself, too.
How are you using philanthropy to honor Sheryl’s memory?
We thought it was really important to make sure her legacy of kindness, outreach, and love of life would live on, which is why we decided to start the fellowship.
What are your hopes for the students who receive the Sheryl Lanman Nichols Memorial Fellowship?
We hope that they will follow in Sheryl's footsteps in giving back to people who have not had an easy time in life, who specifically work with vulnerable women and children, helping them go on to better their lives.