Remembering Andrew: Family Creates Scholarship Fund to Honor Son’s Legacy
Andrew William Ethridge, 23, passed away on May 12, 2015, after a four-year battle with brain cancer. His parents, Rev. Dr. Glenn and Cathy Ethridge, share how the scholarship fund they created honors Andrew’s legacy while blessing students from Oak Grove UMC in Decatur where he serves as Pastor Emeritus.
GUMF: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT ANDREW?
CATHY: Andrew leaves behind the essence of an Emory University business student. He LOVED Emory, and he loved academics. He worked hard academically and socially, and was involved in numerous activities on campus and off. He founded the Oxford College Marketing Club, was an Emory Eagles announcer at athletic events, was a Bonner Scholar, and was on the Dean's List every semester. He was a youth mentor and sang in the youth and adult choirs at Oak Grove UMC, volunteered as an Angel Buddy for special needs children, and founded the Young Adult Sunday School Class.
GLENN: Andrew left a legacy of laughter, courage, and drive. Inspired by the faculty of Oxford College, Andrew became a driven student, pursuing excellence. When his diagnosis of cancer came, he never relented. He went to multiple sessions of the same class to help him grasp the material. He hired tutors, studied long hours, and visited faculty during office hours. He never said, “I give up.” Amazingly, he did it all with wit and humor.
GUMF: WHAT DID YOU LOVE AND ADMIRE MOST ABOUT ANDREW?
CATHY: His giving spirit! When he was sick and receiving treatment in Houston, we drove by a family on a sidewalk selling water. He made us stop so he could purchase water from them. And, he began a family tradition in 2012 of making 100 bagged meals on Christmas Eve to take to the homeless on Christmas Day.
GLENN: Andrew loved to laugh and to make others laugh. Andrew spent high school trying to find himself. By college, he had things together, and he worked with youth who were struggling through adolescence. He was fun to be with. His drive to achieve was so strong that Emory University’s Goizueta Business School posthumously established “The Andrew Ethridge Award” to honor outstanding Bachelor of Business Administration students who distinguish themselves academically and in the community.
GUMF: WHAT WAS ANDREW PASSIONATE ABOUT?
CATHY: Andrew loved family! He enjoyed playing board games, golfing with Dad, fishing with his brother, Lee, and dancing with Mom. When he was hospitalized in December 2011, one of my fondest memories is of him dancing with me while waiting to be discharged. He loved making people happy and was the jokester of the family, competing with Dad, as to who was the “funniest man in the family!”
GLENN: Andrew was passionate about laughter, music, and school. We always laughed that Andrew was going to own the world before he was 30. He had a great group of poker friends. Andrew enjoyed the relationships, and he also enjoyed the competition. In anything Andrew did, he wanted to win. Andrew enjoyed golf, and it was on the golf course that we bonded. Even when he was undergoing treatment, we remained competitive on the golf course. His favorite pastime was fishing. Andrew, Lee, and I spent many a day fishing on Lake Thurmond, Lake Lanier, and Fausett Lake.
GUMF: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT ANDREW’S FAITH?
CATHY: Andrew experienced faith as a child and grew up in a Methodist preacher's family. He felt that he had to represent a typical preacher's kid, and struggled with his faith as a young teen. When he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, his faith changed. His sense of giving to others, serving others, loving ALL, increased dramatically. He acknowledged that his faith was changing and that perhaps the illness was an opportunity to deepen his faith. He began to see that what once was his desire to be rich and famous wasn't the route to go. He wanted to help others more, show more love to the family and to others, and to be a good servant of God.
GLENN: By the time of his diagnosis, he began to develop his faith. He had questions, and he had struggles about his own health and situation, but he had a steady, peaceful faith that the Lord would care for him in this world and the world to come. Andrew never became bitter. He was faithful to his church, attending worship just a couple of days before his death. He sang praise to God in choirs, with his laugh, and with his sure confidence that the Lord would care for him.
GUMF: HOW HAS YOUR FAMILY’S FAITH SUSTAINED YOU?
CATHY: Because of our faith, our family is surviving the loss of Andrew. I cannot imagine a person losing a child and not having faith. We recall the great times together and rejoice in those memories of Andrew. We laugh and cry, and know that God is with us and has and will meet our needs and continue to help us daily.
GLENN: I do not understand how people face tragic death without faith in God. The confidence Andrew had, and we have, that Andrew is secure in the hands of the Almighty brings me comfort every day. We experienced strength through the presence of the Spirit and from the support of friends. Ultimately, we have a peace from God that all is well.
GUMF: WHY DID YOUR FAMILY CREATE THE SCHOLARSHIP FUND?
CATHY: We established the scholarship fund as a way to honor Andrew's legacy to Oxford College (his favorite school)! When he died, we asked that money be donated to this fund in lieu of flowers! Folks from Oak Grove UMC, friends and congregants from all of the churches we have served, family, my work friends, Andrew's friends, Lee's friends, and anyone who wanted to remember Andrew gave! And to this day, people still contribute. Andrew's paternal grandmother, Thelma (Ted) Ethridge, contributes to this fund yearly on Andrew's birthday.
GLENN: Andrew loved Oak Grove UMC, and he loved Oxford College. This scholarship, which is at about $80,000 now, helps Oak Grove youth experience the joy of Oxford College. It is also helping others make their college dreams come true. Our prayer for those young people is that they would have as much fun in life and faith as Andrew did.
GUMF: WHAT HAS GIVING TO OTHERS MEANT TO YOUR FAMILY?
CATHY: The scholarship signifies that Andrew's legacy does live on. It is a part of reaching out to give to others, just as he did while here on earth. I am proud to know that someone may achieve their desires and dreams using this money given in memory of Andrew.
GLENN: We love seeing other young people enjoy college. It reminds us of our love for Andrew and Andrew’s love for Oxford. The scholarship helps keep those memories positive and encouraging.
GUMF: HOW DO THE SCHOLARSHIPS BLESS OTHER STUDENTS?
GLENN: Each year funds are made available to Oak Grove students, children of clergy in the Atlanta Emory District, and young people with a history of cancer. Between the money in the Andrew Ethridge Memorial Scholarship Fund and the United Methodist Dollars for Scholars Program, students can receive as much as $8,000 in scholarships per year. This year we made two awards: one to a student at Oxford and one to a cancer survivor who is attending the University of Alabama, nemesis of Andrew’s beloved Georgia Bulldogs.
GUMF: IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?
CATHY: Andrew is greatly missed by so many people. He was truly a great young man with so much potential. We love him!
GLENN: Andrew’s last day of being alert and functioning was Mother’s Day. He went to church that morning to be with his mom, then his wife, Kristin, Lee, Cathy, and I had lunch. After lunch, Cathy, Andrew, and I went to Fausett Lake. He and I fished that afternoon for a couple of hours, then Andrew said he didn’t feel well. We went straight to the hospital, where he died within a couple of days. We find comfort in knowing that on his final day enjoying life he went to worship with his mother, and he fished with me.
Please visit www.ogumc.org if you would like to donate to the Andrew Ethridge Memorial Scholarship Fund, which is managed by the Georgia United Methodist Foundation.
This article was originally published in the Georgia United Methodist Foundation's Fall 2018 Faith & Money newsletter.