Matt Ward (BSIE ’05) remembers playing marathon racquetball games against Eric Streich (BSIE ’05), all-out battles that left the two friends so tired they could barely hobble home from the Natatorium to Slichter Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Nick McDonough (BSIE ’04, MSIE ’05) recalls working late into the night alongside Streich on a big project for the consulting firm Virchow Krause after graduation. The rest of the lights in the Milwaukee office had gone dark and the two young consultants were exhausted, but Streich wouldn’t let them leave until they had finished.
Such is the fully committed way Streich approached life.
“It didn’t matter if he was playing pickup baseball with the neighborhood kids or getting his co-workers to do a marathon,” says his mother, Betty Streich.
Eric Streich tragically died of a traumatic brain injury October 12, 2006, leaving family and friends with only memories of his magnetic personality, genuine and loyal nature, and all-around determination. To honor him and sustain his memory, his parents created the Eric Victor Streich Memorial Scholarship in 2007, which annually supports one or two first-semester seniors majoring in industrial engineering.
Dick and Betty Streich, who have saved every thank you note and letter from the recipients over the years, recently made a planned estate gift to the fund. Eric’s college friends also organize a golf tournament every fall in Madison to raise money; over its 12 years, the event has generated more than $50,000.
As an endowment fund, it will never run out.
“I think the whole point for us was that, given more years, Eric could have made a difference,” says Betty Streich. “Our hope is that these graduates will make a difference.”
Eric was days away from starting a new job as a senior consultant at General Electric Healthcare in Waukesha, Wisconsin, when he died. His interest in the healthcare sector emerged, at least in part, from a class project in which he and Ward worked with the radiology department at UW Hospital to improve patient flow. The two won a scholarship prize for their work.
“He did things the right way. He worked hard,” says Ward. “He was on his way to being really, really successful.”
But it was Eric’s infectious personality and competitive makeup that charmed his friends. He excelled in sports, particularly baseball, softball, soccer and golf.
“He was always very good at being himself,” says Ward. “He made people feel a sense of belonging.”
That explains why, year after year, friends and family members make a pilgrimage to Madison to golf, reconnect and reminisce about their old friend. For one day a year, they’re all together.
“Eric would love this, and he would be the center of it,” says McDonough. “He was the charismatic guy that everybody wanted to be around. And so, to some degree, he’s still that. He’s still the glue that’s keeping the group together, after all these years.”
Author: Tom Ziemer