Debra Ann Beebe, a graduate of the School of Social Work, was a committed and tireless advocate of individuals with serious mental illnesses. She was tragically killed at the age of 27. Her parents, Richard and Marilyn Beebe, established the Debra Beebe Memorial Scholarship Fund in Social Work to honor the memory of their kind and caring daughter.
As a child, Debra, or Debi, loved to listen to her grandfather read to her. She was a polite girl who would tell stories about her actions, no matter how silly, and laugh about them with others. Originally from South Bend, Indiana, she graduated with honors from Indiana University where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society.
Debra continued in her education, pursuing a master’s degree at the UW-Madison School of Social Work with a specialization in mental health. In Madison, Debra took on the initiative to work on a major project finding food and shelter for the city’s homeless residents so they would be safe during the cold winters.
In her job for Goodwill Industries at a halfway house, Debra chose to work with the most challenging clients. She gained the love and admiration of clients and staff alike, and went above and beyond to make life better for the residents by planning parties, making special birthday cakes and helping clients with costumes.
When Debra went on duty on January 6, 1989, she was stabbed repeatedly by a client. Another worker heard her screams and called the police. The client also ran to a phone booth and called the police to tell them what he had done. By the time help arrived, Debra had passed away.
Richard and Marilyn Beebe established a scholarship in Debra’s honor, with the first award presented in 1991. “We know Debi would be proud that her work is continuing,” said her father, Richard Beebe. Each decade, over 20 Debra Beebe Memorial Scholarships are awarded to social work students.