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Scholarship Honors Fallen Alumna Amy Kuritar Lohrmann

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By Camille Murawski

Fall is scholarship season at the College of Health and Public Affairs, which is offering more than 40 endowed scholarships this year thanks to the generous gifts of people who believe in our mission of strengthening communities and changing lives. Read below to learn how establishing a scholarship helped Renée Kuritar, mother of alumna Amy Kuritar Lohrmann, cope with her daughter's tragic passing.

The Amy Kuritar Lohrmann Memorial Scholarship
A legacy of advancing and inspiring criminal justice students

When Amy Kuritar Lohrmann was growing up, her mother, Renée, could tell there was something special about her. Renée and her husband, Bob, moved to Fort Myers with Amy in 1985 from Alpena, a small town on the shores of Lake Huron, Michigan.

"She just grasped things," Renée said. "When she was in the fourth grade, she sat on the couch and watched football games with her dad." Renée added that "Amy knew all the rules and yelled along with her dad when the referees made a bad call. She was the boy her father never had. They were very close."

Amy could have gone anywhere for college, her mother said. But her choice of UCF was sealed when one of her friends applied here. Renée said she was thrilled with Amy's decision, because not only was it closer to their Fort Myers home than the other colleges that had interested Amy, but in 1990, the university was small enough so that Amy would not be overwhelmed.

Like many UCF undergrads, Amy did not know what she wanted to major in, Renée said. However, it didn't take long for Amy to use her natural gifts and "street smarts" to choose a path that would eventually lead to a career she loved and at which she excelled.

While at UCF, Amy met Jo-An Stronko, a fellow criminal justice major, and the two became best friends. "She was extremely smart," Stronko said. "Outgoing, energetic and a great people reader. She was deep and insightful, far beyond her years."

If you would like to make a gift to the Amy Kuritar Lohrmann Scholarship Fund, please vist our  Giving page.

Amy graduated in 1994 from UCF with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

"This was long before crime shows like NCIS," Renée added. Renée said that most mothers dream of the day they can watch their child walk down the aisle to their true love. For Renée, her greatest desire was for Amy to utilize her college education.

For a short time, Amy had both. She married a man who -- on his best days -- had a slight resemblance to Patrick Swayze, the heartthrob actor from "Ghost" and other movies. Renée said Amy took him in because "she thought she could fix him."

A few years after graduating, Amy began working for Seminole County Probation. In that role, Amy supervised offenders who had been arrested for domestic violence. Jo-An worked nearby at Seminole County Sheriff's Office.

Amy Todd, another close friend who is now a warrants clerk at Hernando County Sheriff's Office, said she had an "instantaneous feeling" when she met the new probation officer. The two Amys hit it off right away. Not only did they see each other every day, Todd said, but they would talk on the phone each night, and spend weekends together.

"She had passion for anything she brought into her world," Todd said. "Passion for her friends, passion for her life, and passion for her job.

Amy frequently received notes from grateful citizens, thanking them for saving their lives. In her work, Amy supervised probationers to ensure they met the court-ordered terms of their release from jail. She told her mother, "'The worst part is that when women have their partner put in jail, their income stops, leading to no food, no rent, and so they drop the charges and the men come back. It's a vicious cycle.'"

Renée said she and Bob suspected that Amy and her husband had problems in their marriage, but they were not privy to all the details. "I knew when to stop questioning her," Renée said.

When Amy told them she had initiated divorce proceedings and was in the process of moving into her own apartment, Bob and Renée were thrilled. Renée did share a concern with Amy over her estranged husband's gun collection. Renée said Amy quickly replied, "'Oh, Mom, he would never shoot me.'"

On a Tuesday in October 2001, Bob and Renée's lives changed forever. When Amy had not reported to her job at Seminole County Probation, her partner, Jim Riley, went to her house to check on her. Inside, he found the bodies of Amy and her husband. Evidence would show that Amy's husband had killed her first, and then waited hours before turning the gun on himself.

Riley, who is now retired, said he wants people to try not to remember the details of Amy's death. Rather, he said, he wants people to remember "how dedicated she was to helping battered women."

Amy also had a great sense of humor, Riley said. "One time, I got knocked down by a 98-pound pregnant woman when we were on a call. I just looked over at Amy, and she was just laughing at me.

"There was just something about her," Riley added. "She was a natural at her job; she could fix it, or find a way to fix it. She was able to find these battered women some comfort."

Stronko also says her memories of Amy are something she holds close to her heart. "I definitely take the time to tell Amy's story to people who need it," Stronko said. "I share it as often as I can to get through to other victims of domestic violence."
In the horrible aftermath of Amy's death, Renée said she was comforted by the outpouring of support from the UCF family, especially Lambda Alpha Epsilon (LAE), the university's pre-professional criminal justice fraternity. "Everyone who knew her, loved her," Renée said.

The Kuritars decided to use donations the family had received in Amy's memory to help establish an endowed scholarship in her name. The need-based scholarships would benefit students majoring in criminal justice, with preference given to applicants who "demonstrate involvement in clubs and organizations, volunteer leadership positions and community service."

"After it happened, I remembered thinking there was never going to be anything new with Amy," Renée said. "The scholarship saved our lives." It was time-consuming, Renée said,  but in a good way. Writing thank-you notes to donors, and receiving notes from scholarship recipients was therapeutic. And to the Kuritars, "A donation of five dollars felt like $50,000," Renée said. It meant that Amy's memory continued to touch people. "Amy covered a lot in her 29 years. She was a magnet."

Even now, 15 years later, Amy's friends, colleagues and people who never met her are drawn to the cause that Renée and her late husband established. In October, LAE hosted the Domestic Violence Charity Auction.  The event - designed and produced entirely by criminal justice students - raised more than $2,000, all of which will go toward funding scholarships for people like Amy who wish to serve and protect their community.

Milena CaneteMilena Canete (left), this year's LAE president, received one of the Amy Kuritar Lohrmann scholarship last year. She used the award to help pay for summer classes, she said. Canete and LAE's executive board members worked to gather sponsorships and gift cards from area businesses.

"We can live on for Amy," Canete told the attendees at the Domestic Violence Charity Auction. "We should remember her as someone who worked very hard and was very passionate about helping people in her community."

Amy was not just another victim of domestic violence. She was a great cook, a thoughtful friend, and someone who "never had a bad hair day," Stronko remembered. Amy would frequently sing "You are My Sunshine" to her close friends with a smile that was infectious.

"Honoring Amy in this way is something positive that comes out of tragedy," Stronko said. "Someone else is learning her story and taking it away to remember and share when they are out in the community."

And although Amy's story had an unimaginably tragic ending, there is another story that her friends and family want everyone to know: "Amy was the most giving, loyal, caring person that I've ever encountered," said her friend, Amy Todd. She would be so grateful that this scholarship will help students learn how to protect other women. Amy was an angel."

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