Andrea Eliscu, 60, of Orlando tells why she is giving money to the University of Central Florida for its new medical school. Dozens of donors have pledged $6.4 million to provide 40, four-year scholarships worth $160,000.

My husband of 34 years, Edward H. Eliscu, M.D., passed away on May 4, 2000. Ed was diagnosed with renal cell cancer at age 45 and died when he was 60. He was a senior interventional radiologist with the Medical Center Radiology Group at Orlando Regional Medical Center and loved teaching and practicing medicine.

In our religion, we honor the memory of our loved ones one year after their passing by putting a headstone at their grave site. At his request, Edward was cremated, and thus our family never did anything to formally acknowledge his passing with a memorial.

Yet I have always yearned for a stopping-off place to recognize his life.

Through my involvement . . . in our local business community, I had the opportunity to learn firsthand about the medical school that was coming to the University of Central Florida. I made it a priority to meet with Deb German, M.D., dean of the medical school, within weeks of her arrival. We had many meetings and I was simply stunned with her vision and mantra to bring the "best of the best" students to the medical school. I found her innovative plan to provide 40 scholarships to the first class of medical students both brilliant and engaging.

As I thought about it, I realized I knew how I wanted to honor Edward. I wanted to be one of the 40 in our community to provide a full scholarship to medical school.

But alas, I could not afford to make a $40,000-a-year commitment for four years. But it never left my mind that I really wanted to do this in Edward's name. Although I could not purchase a scholarship, I looked to my peers and colleagues who I thought might be able to do so and arranged for the dean to meet with these folks. I was at Panera Bread in Winter Park on just such a mission, waiting for Dean German, when I bumped into Harriett Lake, a wonderful philanthropist and strong woman leader in our community.

I told her I was working on scholarships for the medical school. She said, "Do you think it's going to happen?" I said, "Absolutely. In fact, I wish I could fund one in Edward's name." "Why aren't you?" she asked. "Oh," I said, "I want to more than anything, but I just can't. I could probably do half, but I only want to do a full scholarship."

She looked at me as only Harriett can and said, "Wouldn't he have loved that. I'll do it with you, but show me your money. I'm not going to pay for the whole thing." And, she said, "Don't put my name on it."

I was floored and thrilled at the same time.

I felt like an angel had just swooped down and given me a gift that not only meant a lot to me, but one that would make a real difference for our community.

When history looks back on . . . those 40 scholarships that made a difference, one of those scholarships will always be the Edward H. Eliscu M.D. and Hy Lake Scholarship.

My children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will always have that memory of Edward's perpetual leadership, and I will forever be smiling.

SCHOLARSHIPS

Winter Park's efforts benefit first UCF med students. Page A8