Webster University alumna Doris Federhofer dies at 102


Written by Monica Obradovic

Soon before Doris Federhofer’s passing, the Webster class of ‘38 alumna still talked about her love of Webster.

Federhofer arrived at Webster on a scholarship. Since her graduation in ‘38, the alumna sought to give others the same opportunity for education that she had.

Federhofer grew up in Peoria, Ill. where her and her family lived in a farmhouse. Although the family cherished education, they did not have the finances for Federhofer to pursue a college degree, said Federhofer’s eldest son Bill Federhofer.   

Webster, at the time an all-girl Catholic school, endowed Doris Federhofer with the Sisters of Loretto Scholarship due to her academic merit.

Doris Federhofer’s family said the scholarship lit a fire in the heart of the alumna. She and her now-late husband Earl Federhofer advocated for education and later funded the Sisters of Loretto Scholarship themselves.

Doris Federhofer remained active at Webster up until the last year of her life. Through the years, the alumna would help raise money for the university by participating in phone drives. According to Webster’s former Director of Gift Planning Ken Nickless, she attended every scholarship dinner to meet the students her Sisters of Loretto Scholarship benefitted.

Nickless said Doris Federhofer supported Webster’s decision in 1967 to become a mixed gender school.

“She told me many times in a meeting early on in that process what her husband remarked to her, ‘If you don’t progress, you regress,’” Nickless said. ”That became her mantra, always moving forward and progressing because otherwise you either stand still or go backwards.”

Nickless said Doris Federhofer strived to help others progress their lives by spreading the word about Webster. He characterized Doris Federhofer as the alumni association’s most passionate cheerleader. If the alumna sat next to someone on a bus, he said she would encourage them to get their degree.

“Everyone she talked to, even young people on the street, she said, ‘You should think about going to Webster University,’” Nickless said. “She would tell strangers about the scholarship she received.”

Bill Federhofer said he admired his mother’s generosity, not only with her contributions to Webster but in many aspects of her life.

“She was a real hard worker,” Bill Federhofer said. “She took care of everything. She was the go-to person for all that went. She did volunteering. She was a wonderful person.”

Doris and Earl Federhofer devoted their lives to service after Earl Federhofer retired and sold his truck leasing company in 1968.

For thirty years, the couple volunteered at the International Executive Service Corps (IESC). Through the IESC, the Federhofers aided third world countries in Central and South America, Africa and the Middle East.

Doris Federhofer extended her care close to home as well.

According to her third son Jack Federhofer, Doris Federhofer visited and read to one woman in a nursing home for twenty years.

“She loved people and did everything she could to learn from them, as well as interact with them,” Jack Federhofer said.

Doris Federhofer planned on attending her eightieth college reunion on September 29th, despite her declining health. She would have been the first Webster alum to reach that milestone.

The alumni association honored Doris Federhofer at Saturday’s Golden Circle Luncheon, an event for alumni who graduated fifty or more years ago.

Julie Reese, a Webster graduate from the class of 1968, spoke at the luncheon to recognize Doris Federhofer.  

“Doris’s bright smile will be missed, but her legacy will always remain,” Reese said.

Nickless saw Doris Federhofer’s noticeable decline in her last few months when he visited her in March.

“You could tell she was really tired and worn out,” Nickless said.  “I didn’t stay long. She fell asleep, but she was still talking about Webster. It was her big thing throughout her life. Other than family, I don’t think she was ever as proud of anything as she was to have attended Webster.”

Doris Federhofer left behind four sons, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

For Jack Federhofer, his mother’s mark will continue to live on.

“Her legacy lives on in her family and the sons and grandchildren she had,” Jack Federhofer said.

Doris Federhofer’s home church, St. Martin of Tours, will hold a memorial mass for Doris Federhofer in October.

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