About Rosel Schewel

Rosel Hoffberger Schewel, a native of Baltimore, passed away peacefully surrounded by family on September 28, 2017. With her death, Lynchburg, Va. lost an extraordinary citizen-a philanthropist, teacher, scholar, mentor, political activist, founder, board leader, and a champion for public education, racial justice and the rights of women.

Rosel's first and deepest commitment was always to her family and friends. She and Elliot Schewel shared a loving marriage for 68 years. While raising her family, Rosel also had a distinguished career as a special education teacher and later as an Associate Professor of Education at Lynchburg College, falling in with a group of exciting young scholars. Perhaps unique in American education, Rosel not only served on the faculty of the college but chaired its board of trustees as well.

On top of her professional career, Rosel's civic involvement was remarkable. Her Park School high school yearbook bears this inscription beneath her photograph: "An iron fist in a velvet glove." Nowhere was her iron fist more in evidence than in her first civic involvement in Lynchburg as a Girl Scout leader. As president of the local Girl Scout Council in the early 1950s, Rosel insisted that the new scout camp, Camp Sacajawea, allow black and white scouts equally to attend. Some board members resigned in protest, but Rosel persisted and succeeded.

Rosel's specialty was founding and building institutions. At the end of her life, she said that her proudest achievements were helping to found the Lynchburg League of Women Voters in the early 1950's, the Women's Resource Center in the 1970's, and Beacon of Hope in the 2010's. Rosel was a feminist and proud of it. When local women formed a group to recruit and fund women running for office, they named it "Rosel's List." Rosel was the first woman to serve on the board of Virginia Baptist Hospital, the first woman to serve on and chair the board of Lynchburg College and the first woman to serve as president of Agudath Shalom Synagogue.

The great cause of her final years was Beacon of Hope, the non-profit she cherished whose mission is to enable all of Lynchburg's high school graduates to get a post-secondary education. Rosel was a graduate of Hood College, received M.Ed. and Ed.S. degrees and an honorary doctorate from Lynchburg College.