'96 Alumnus Establishes Scholarship to Honor Dear Friend
Marc Ponchione ’96 came to Marietta from Pennsylvania not knowing a soul and hoping to play baseball for the legendary coach Don Schaly. The first person he met at Marietta was Eric Abood ’96, a charismatic freshman who lived on the same floor in Mary Beach Hall.
“I was slightly tentative as a freshman, and he was everything but,” Marc says. “He was an extremely confident and talented individual and a very cool kid, but not in an exclusive way.”
Marc’s freshman year didn’t go as planned. He did not survive the final cut for the baseball team, but he did make a great friend. Marc and Eric grew close, and Marc was encouraged by Eric to pledge the Delta Upsilon fraternity and to stay socially active. The two shared a similar sense of humor and appreciation for music. A mutual trust began to develop.
“Eric was very talented. I was always amazed — he was very intelligent and got great grades; he played varsity tennis and was active in club soccer and other intramural sports; he was accepted into the competitive Sports Medicine program; he was a fraternity member; he had an outstanding voice and was on scholarship for music," Ponchione says. "A renaissance man, and the fact that we became close and that he showed me the ropes and how to navigate the college scene was very commendable and very generous.”
When the two graduated, they shared an apartment in Pittsburgh as Marc headed to law school and Eric enrolled in graduate school. During that year, Eric would force his friend to take a break from his studies and the apartment to grab a drink or go to a concert.
“The first year of law school is pretty brutal – a heavy workload and a lot of stress. But Eric encouraged me to take breaks, see the city, and meet people.” One highlight was attending a concert to hear the band Live. “Eric encouraged me in the same way he did while on campus at Marietta, which was even more critical as we were out living on our own,” Marc says. “We became much closer during that time, and he helped again as I navigated my academic and social lives, introducing me to new social circles and helping me through some tough times. Those were very formative years in all senses, and to have him play a role like that in my life when I needed somebody to keep me grounded and introduce me to new things did so much for me.”
It was during a weekend trip over the summer of 1997, following Marc’s first year of law school, to meet some of Eric’s high school friends in Cincinnati that Marc began to again feel relaxed and happy about where he was in life, so much so that he wrote a letter to his parents describing his emotions and that perfect weekend.
The two finished their respective graduate studies and ended up in different cities to begin their professional lives. Marc moved to New York City and met Anita, who would eventually become his wife. The two moved to Washington, D.C., in 2001. Eric moved to Florida and worked in healthcare and with different professional sports teams. Eric later worked as a physician assistant in the Sandusky, Ohio, area. The two stayed close: Eric was best man and performed as a solo vocalist at Marc and Anita’s wedding, and Marc and Anita would see Eric every few years in Florida and at mutual friends’ weddings. And in 2015, Eric had the chance to visit Marc and Anita in Washington and meet their three young daughters, Anna, Maddie, and Audrey (8, 6, and 1 at the time). Marc remembers Anna and Maddie doing pull-ups on Eric’s biceps and thinking of him as a “fun uncle.”
On September 12, 2017, Eric’s brother, Evan, contacted Marc to let him know that Eric had died. Though devastated, Marc’s first thought was the letter he had written to his parents in the summer of 1997 following his road trip to Cincinnati with Eric; luckily, Marc’s mother had saved it (as a good mother would). The following day, Marc sent a copy of the letter to Eric’s family, explaining that it was an unsolicited reflection of Eric’s ability to positively impact others. Marc wrote to the Abood family, “Eric was very important to me. I hope I told him that; if not, or if not enough times, then you should hear it from me. He came along at a point in my life when I really needed someone like him, then came along again when I needed someone like him again. The thing is, he was exactly the person I needed at exactly those times. If he hadn’t been there, my life probably would be very different. Maybe not better or worse, but different. And I don’t want a different life; Eric allowed me to have the life I wanted.”
Marc shares stories of his time with Eric in a loving way, like a brother. As he and Anita thought of how they could honor Eric’s life and the impact he had on so many of his friends, they turned to the place where it all began.
“We thought it would be appropriate to memorialize Eric with a scholarship related to the field of music,” Marc says. “We settled on Music Therapy because had that program been available when Eric was at Marietta, he would have been a natural fit. He had the musical talent, and his humanity was such that he could connect deeply with people. It seemed fitting to give another student a chance to maybe shine the way that Eric did. And symbolically and practically, more music therapists in the world would be a good thing.”
The Eric Abood ’96 Memorial Endowment Scholarship was established by the Ponchione family through a gift of $250,000 to provide half tuition to a full-time student majoring in Music Therapy or another major in the Music Department.
“Marc and his wife, Anita, are great people who love Marietta College,” says Dr. Josh Jacobs, Vice President for Advancement. “Marc had a passion for supporting the students at Marietta College, and Anita, an advancement professional in her own right, helped advise him on how to achieve it.”
The scholarship is renewable for all four years. Ponchione hopes that other people who knew Eric will also help support the endowed scholarship.
To support the Eric Abood Memorial Scholarship, please contact the Office of Advancement at 740-376-4711 or visit www.marietta.edu/give.