Joe and Kylie Gehrke at their wedding this summer in Napa County. (Photo courtesy of Erika Mattingly Photography.)
Joe and Kylie Gehrke really didn’t need a new blender.
So when the Chicago couple got to the point of setting up their wedding gift registry, they decided to take a different route.
“No gifts,” reads the invite to their wedding reception. “Instead, donate to a cause of your choice.”
They recommended one cause in particular: the Joan Smith Gehrke Endowed Scholarship at Creighton, which honors the memory of Joe’s late mother, a class of ‘69 political science grad who passed away in 2015. The scholarship assists students in the College of Arts and Sciences and celebrates a life marked by generosity and compassion.
“My mother spent most of her life volunteering and giving back to all sorts of causes,” Joe said. “We thought that asking people to give to the scholarship in her name would be a fitting way to honor who she was. We’re so glad we could do this for her.”
Joan dedicated much of her life to fundraising and civic leadership.
In 2005, she became the founding chair of the St. John Hospital Foundation, leading the first major campaign to fund the St. John Providence Health System in southeast Michigan. In 2011, the Joan Gehrke Endowed Fund in Oncology was established to provide support and enhance the care of cancer patients in the St. John system. Joan also chaired the steering committee for 2-1-1, a 24-hour help line that pools health and human services resources for the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
Throughout it all, her family said, Creighton stayed with her.
“She always remembered it fondly as a place that shaped her life,” Joe said of his mother.
Joan’s family had a history with the University. She and her twin sister, Janet Smith, BA’69, graduated on the same day. Their brother, father and uncle went to Creighton, too.
“Joan loved Creighton,” said William Gehrke, Joan’s husband, who lives in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. “She kept up with Creighton. She even managed to turn me into a Creighton fan, even though I went to Notre Dame.”
Of his son and daughter-in-law, William couldn’t be prouder. Foregoing a gift registry to support the scholarship was, he said, a creative way to keep the fund growing and keep alive the memory of a woman who never stopped giving.