Dr. Maryellen Nerz-Stormes, of Strafford, PA,
on July 17,
Dr. Nerz-Stormes, cherished wife, mother, daughter, and sister, also was
a gifted teacher of Organic Chemistry at Bryn Mawr College for more than 30 years and a passionate defender of patient rights and advocacy.
She was born in Hartford, CT and educated at Mount Saint Mary Academy in Newburgh, NY, Mount St. Vincent College (BS in Biochemistry, 1980), and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry, 1985).
After a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina and a short teaching stint at Wagner College, she began her long and vibrant career at Bryn Mawr College as a Laboratory Lecturer in Chemistry in 1988.
She continued teaching there until May of this year.
Dr. Nerz once said, "I feel right. I feel happiest when I am teaching." The thousands of students who experienced her knowledge, compassion, and humor in her lectures and labs in organic chemistry knew this to be true.
Aside from her love of her family, this connection with and love for her students was her greatest passion. Dr. Nerz thrived on devising new ways to present material and inspire learning. She was known for pushing students to think by answering a question with a question and constantly adapting and rewriting her methods of instruction (her approximately 150 YouTube video lab tutorials have been watched 400,000 times).
She encouraged her students to embrace change and innovation on a daily basis. She saw teaching and learning as a microcosm of the greater struggle of life:
That one must constantly persevere, salvage, and look to fix problems with creative solutions.
As a Bryn Mawr faculty member, she served
on numerous committees and supervised and mentored hundreds of students over the years. Her role as Undergraduate Health Professions Advisor allowed her to combine her experience as a cancer survivor with her love of teaching; she was able to enlighten and guide future doctors about the patient experience.
From 2004 to 2018 she gave semi-annual talks about the doctor/patient relationship, being her own advocate, sharing her compelling story with pre-medical students.
As a teacher, Dr. Nerz always went the extra mile. She included candy in her exam packets, taught students to crochet, held numerous end of term parties at her home, conducted Saturday office hours, and went to great lengths to care for them as more than students, but as human beings. Not surprisingly, she won
two graduate teaching awards at the University of Pennsylvania (1981/83), and, at Bryn Mawr, the Rosalyn R. Schwartz Teaching Award (2000) and the Christian and Mary Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching (2007), and, from the American Chemical Society (ACS),
she won the ACS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2016).
When diagnosed in 2001 with metastatic breast cancer, Dr. Nerz bought the text book on cancer and began what would be an 18-year study of the disease and its treatments. She was inspired to survive as long as possible by her two young sons, who were 10 and 8 at the time of her diagnosis. Learning everything she could,
Dr. Nerz became an active participant in her healthcare, pushing her "team" to explore new avenues and concepts. She wanted to serve her doctors by being educated about her disease and contributing research and ideas to her treatment.
found that, as a teacher and chemist, she was well suited to the task. Her science training informed her cancer struggle and her cancer work changed her teaching priorities and style. Over the years, she became a cancer advocate and believed she could use her background to help other patients receive better care. Dr. Nerz's expertise and knowledge of cancer and the patient experience led her to become an alternate and full member of the Institutional Review Board (IRB), whose goal is to protect patients in clinical trials, at Lankenau, Bryn Mawr, and Paoli Hospitals. Again, it is not surprising that she was honored as a Susan G. Komen Survivor of the year in 2011. However, her greatest source of pride was in her sons' accomplishments. They are now 28 and 26, fully educated and employed, independent men, but most importantly, good people.
Aside from her major achievements in parenting, surviving, teaching ,and cancer advocacy, Dr. Nerz was an open-minded, altruistic,
person of faith. A renaissance woman who was good at pretty much everything she tried, she played field hockey and basketball and was a junior champion golfer in high school. She could sew, crochet, paint, draw, sing, and play the piano and violin.
For many years she was a member of her church choir. Her keen eye for style was reflected in her clothing and house décor. She would frequently repaint her walls, make new curtains for windows, and begin ambitious gardening projects. Taking pleasure from her Victorian house,
she felt spiritually connected to it, and greatly enjoyed its furnishing and decoration. She knew a lot about baseball and football, and savored a good sports discussion. Dr. Nerz was inherently generous and liked "paying it forward" in large and small ways, to a variety of people. She was great fun and celebrated her 60th birthday with, at her request, karaoke and dancing. She was famous for her unnecessary apologizing and constant thank you's to everyone she knew.
Dr. Nerz was predeceased by her brother, Donald Joseph Nerz, in 2015. She is survived by her devoted husband of 38 years, Marc J. Stormes, and her beloved sons, Joseph Fidelis (Asma) of Burlington, VT and Clement Andrew (Richa) of Brooklyn, NY, her loving parents, C. Warren and Lorraine H. Nerz, of Fayetteville, NY, her siblings, C. Warren Nerz Jr. (Gail) of Indianapolis, IN, Thomas Nerz (Kristen) of Houston, TX,
Caroline Kelly Nerz of Morristown, NJ, Barbara Gregg (Paul) of Massapequa, NY,
Honora Eskridge (Toye) of Nashville, TN, and Margaret Iribarne (Jose) of DeWitt, NY, as well as multiple nieces and nephews, friends, colleagues, and countless, adoring students.
Relatives and friends are invited to her viewing Sunday, July 21, 2019
2:00-4:00 PM at The Donohue Funeral Home, 366 W. Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, PA (610) 989-9600 and Monday, July 22, 2019 10:00-11:00 AM at St. Monica Church, 63 Main Avenue, Berwyn, PA and to her Funeral Mass at 11:00 AM.
Interment St. Monica Cemetery.
The Stormes family request that in lieu of flowers, contributions in Maryellen's name be made to House of Grace Catholic Worker, 1826 E. Lehigh Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Monday, July 22, 2019 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
St. Monica Church
63 Main Avenue Berwyn 19312, United States