June 11, 2019
Parents of physician assistant studies alumna
celebrate daughter’s life and legacy with memorial scholarship
Memorial scholarship builds meaningful
legacy of physician assistant studies alumna Lara Rutan
DETROIT — On May
15, 2019, Rick and Judy Rutan once again celebrated the achievements
of outstanding Wayne State University physician assistant (PA)
students at the annual Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and
Health Sciences Donors and Scholars Luncheon as a way of honoring
the memory of their daughter, Lara. To preserve her legacy, the
couple endowed the Lara M. Rutan, MS, PA-C Memorial Scholarship,
which has supported deserving students for the past 11 years.
recipients are Montana Boris, Tanner Hecht, Aimee Sassek and Vita
Stramaglia, who are all on track to receive their master of science
in physician assistant studies degrees at Wayne State in 2020.
serves as a lasting tribute to Lara, who had an infectious joy and
love of life and was constantly giving of herself to help and reach
out to others,” said PA studies faculty member Douglas Howell as he
presented the awards.
Lara, who earned
her master’s degree in PA studies in May 2005, was killed by a drunk
driver four months after her graduation and wedding engagement.
“Lara wanted to make a difference by
helping others, particularly toward better health,” said Rick Rutan.
“Through her scholarship, she continues to do just that by giving
students in Wayne State’s PA studies program the opportunity to
achieve their own dreams of transforming lives through quality
“This scholarship honors Lara’s spirit of
optimism and her consistent encouragement of others,” said Judy
Rutan. “Our endowment has been compounded by additional donations
from family and friends, and we could not be more grateful for the
generosity shown in Lara’s name. The award recipients carry Lara’s
spirit with them through their life’s work as PAs, keeping her
Since the scholarship was first awarded in
2008, the Lara M. Rutan, MS, PA-C
Memorial Scholarship has provided $88,000
in tuition assistance to 42 aspiring PAs. Recipients — full-time
students in the WSU Applebaum PA studies program — are selected
based on academic achievement and financial need.
The poignancy of
the scholarship has inspired all of its recipients. For Montana
Boris of Saginaw, the connection is very personal. Boris was
involved in a fatal car accident at age 16, an event that inspired
her to pursue a career in health care.
“I'm so honored to
represent Lara through this scholarship,” Boris said. “I hope to
make her family proud by giving back in my future career as a
Tanner Hecht of
Reese first felt his call to the medical field his junior year of
high school after acting as a first responder to his father’s
life-threatening farming accident. It was through his father’s
follow-up care that he was introduced to and inspired by the PA
Hecht said, “It
means a lot to be a recipient of this scholarship because I aspire
to live out my life with a similar love and passion for people,
medicine and the PA profession as Lara did.”
An avid volunteer,
Aimee Sassak of metro Detroit has given her time to the Strong
Military Families and HomeFront Strong programs, Orlando’s Give Kids
the World Village – a nonprofit resort for children with critical
illnesses, and the Salvation Army.
scholarship is an honor and a blessing. I will strive to serve my
future patients with a positive attitude and genuine empathy to
embody the spirit of this award,” Sassak said.
Vita Stramaglia is
a passionate patient and physician assistant advocate, and recently
was able educate federal legislators on Capitol Hill about bills
that will ameliorate the physician assistant profession.
“One of the reasons
I choose to attend Wayne State’s physician assistant studies program
was because of how integrated and devoted it is to giving back to
the Detroit community,” Stramaglia said. “The Rutan family is the
epitome of our values here at Wayne State, and their generosity will
allow me to focus in my clinical year so I am able to become the
greatest clinician that I can be for my patients once I graduate. My
sincerest gratitude goes out to them.”
To donate to the
Lara M. Rutan Endowed Scholarship Fund or to learn more about
creating your own, please contact Denise Thomas, director of
philanthropy and alumni affairs in the Eugene Applebaum College of
Pharmacy and Health Sciences, at 313-577-1095 or