Lisa Alvarez Oberle SSW’93 was the consummate social worker – a dedicated clinician who went above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis to ensure the best outcome for those in her care. In addition to juggling all of her professional duties as a social worker for the Visiting Nurse Association, she also expertly managed her family responsibilities, which were her true passion. 

Life was not always easy balancing work – which included a daily commute between East Brunswick, New Jersey and Staten Island, New York – family duties, and her own self-care, but Lisa made it all appear effortless. “She was always running from work to home with her paperwork in hand, never missing my basketball and softball games,” explains Lisa’s daughter, Paige. “She would be doing two million things at once, but it was never too much for her. She loved it.”

Lisa’s friends and family, including her husband and son, both named Gerard, felt nothing but constant support, warmth, and love from Lisa. “Every night at dinner, my mom would ask us to share the highs and lows of our day. As a child, I thought it was quite corny and annoying, but now I know she was asking the question to encourage us to talk about our lives and feelings,” Paige remembers. Lisa also made it a priority to be a good daughter to her own parents and her in-laws who lived nearby. She was always there for anyone who needed her at any time – no questions asked.

In 2006, when Paige was just 12 years old, tragedy struck the Oberle family. Lisa passed away suddenly at just 39 years old. A life that had manifested so much good in such a short time, and had the potential for so much more, was gone far too soon. Lisa was the heart of her circles and had touched each life she encountered in a profound way. 

When Lisa died, her community gathered in support of the Oberle family and let them know how much she meant. “Heaven now has the best social worker,” wrote one of Lisa’s friends in a letter to the family. The child of one of Lisa’s clients similarly described Lisa in a letter saying, “Lisa was more than a social worker to my mother, but a confidant who always gave her best advice. Although she was officially my mother’s social worker, she was unofficially mine as well. She was an ear who listened to my problems and gave me the best advice as well.”

“It was something that impacted my whole life,” Paige says about her mother’s untimely death. “My mom was incredible. She was my best friend,” she recalls. Somehow, life continued on without Lisa. But Paige and her family were left to mark so many important milestones like birthdays and graduations without their most ardent supporter. Although she wasn’t there physically, Lisa continued to have an influence on Paige. When it came time to decide on a career path, Paige knew she had to pursue a caring profession. “I saw how much my mom gave her life to others and how fulfilled it made her, so for me it was a no brainer – there was nothing else I wanted to do other than being a nurse practitioner,” she says.

Paige decided to enroll in Seton Hall University where she earned degrees in nursing. It’s also where she met Jason, her partner of eight years and soon-to-be husband. Although Jason never had the opportunity to meet Lisa, he sees how she lives on through Paige. “I've gotten to know a lot about Lisa by hearing stories from Paige and from Lisa’s best friend, Chrissy. But the biggest source of getting to know Lisa has been seeing a lot of qualities Paige describes about her mother or people describe about her mother in Paige,” Jason explains. 

In fact, a year and a half ago, Chrissy, whom Paige calls a “second mom,” got the devastating news that she was in liver failure. Paige decided to donate part of her liver to Chrissy, which saved her life. Paige remained in the hospital for over a week post-operatively, and it took nearly six months for her to recover from her life-changing gift. “It’s exactly what I gather her mom would have done, so I truly get to see Lisa through Paige,” says Jason. “Now we joke that we're blood related,” Paige says of Chrissy with a laugh. “What’s even more special is we can now say there's a part of my mom in her, too, which is just wild. It’s yet another way my mom’s legacy is living on.”

Paige and Jason are now planning their wedding, which is scheduled to take place in 2023. “As I get older and I have these milestones in front of me, my mom continues to impact me more and more,” Paige explains. The couple knew they wanted to incorporate Lisa into the wedding in some way but took some time to figure out how to best honor her tremendous legacy.

Initially, the couple considered making a donation to a charity but felt it wouldn’t do justice to Lisa. Instead, Jason came up with the idea to create a scholarship in Lisa’s name. “When we were thinking about ways to honor my mom, we realized many of her family members and friends were still looking for a way to remember her and keep her memory alive,” Paige says. “I’m excited to share this opportunity with all of them. It’s not just about us but about all the lives she touched. Jason and I can't say we're doing it on our own.”

The couple is aiming to raise $50,000 for an endowment before their wedding to support future generations of social workers at Rutgers. “When I think about my mom,” Paige says, “I remember her as the most incredible mother. But bigger than that, I think of her as a social worker. I know how much she impacted her clients, and she was a social worker for her family, friends, and everyone around her. Rutgers was a big part of her journey, so Jason and I agreed that we wanted the scholarship to benefit a social work student who could carry on her work.” 

Creating the scholarship has also been cathartic for Paige. “Developing the scholarship has brought me a lot of comfort on this journey because I'm missing my mom. As much as it's the most amazing time planning a wedding, I'm also missing her more than ever. It’s been the perfect way to bring her into the celebration and has become a happy light for my family and me,” Paige says.

Paige and Jason view the scholarship as a way of passing the torch from one social worker to another. “My mom’s not here, but we can support a social work student who's going to continue doing the work she did. What gives me comfort during this time, too, is doing something to keep her memory alive and keep the stories about her going.” Paige and Jason hope to help students who embody Lisa’s values and hold similar qualities – thoughtful, compassionate, and dedicated to changing the world one person at a time.

Paige and Jason are aware that the endowment goal will only be possible through the support of family, friends, and all those who wish to see Lisa’s legacy live on for generations to come. “We’re only able to even think about doing this because we know the impact Lisa has had on her friends and family – we are confident her ever-lasting impact will motivate people to donate,” says Jason. Paige adds, “we’ve spoken with some family and close friends already and everyone is extremely excited to be a part of creating this endowment and honoring my mom.”

“We are calling on all of Lisa’s family, friends, former (and forever) clients, or anyone who has been touched by a social worker and wants to be a part of fostering the next generation of social workers to donate, regardless of the amount,” Paige and Jason explain. Donating to The Lisa Alvarez Oberle Memorial Scholarship will not only directly impact the life of a future social worker but also all the lives that student may touch for years to come. A gift will have exponential dividends and reverberate Lisa’s message of positivity and kindness in the world.

View progress of the Lisa Alvarez Oberle Memorial Scholarship below.


Lisa Alvarez Oberle Memorial Scholarship Progress from RutgersSSW on Vimeo.