You can discern how close-knit a community is by the way it handles tragedy. UNC Charlotte proved its unity by establishing the Dr. Jeannine S. Skinner Memorial Scholarship in the wake of Skinner’s death in September.
Skinner was killed on September 1 in her Kings Parade Boulevard apartment at age 35. Donne Lewis Franklin, 45, pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder and will spend 28 years in prison. He was identified as her boyfriend but police have not released a motive for the homicide.
According to the Charlotte Observer, Franklin has a history of assault arrests from Virginia and North Carolina dating back to 1996. In addition to first-degree murder, he has been found guilty of assault and battery, burglary with intent to commit assault and trespassing.
Skinner’s time at UNC Charlotte was short-lived, but her impact on the university was anything but. She joined in the fall of 2016 as an assistant professor of psychology and gerontology. Her research focused on physical, psychological, social and environmental predictors of cognitive aging, particularly in minority geriatric populations. She extended her passion for helping elderly minority populations beyond the lab and created an athletic program for low income, minority seniors who did not have a place to exercise as a way to prevent their cognitive decline. She was in the process of applying for a grant to implement the program nationwide while also working on her Ph.D. from Howard University. Outside of academia, Skinner enjoyed running and was active in her church community.
Dr. Erika Montanaro, an assistant professor in the psychology department at UNC Charlotte, is one of the many loving friends whom Skinner left behind.
“Dr. Skinner was a friend and colleague,” Montanaro said. “We started at UNC Charlotte at the same time. Her infectious smile and giving spirit were things I admired about her and miss seeing at work every day.”
In September, Chancellor Philip L. Dubois released a statement about Skinner’s passing.
“We grieve for Jeannine’s family and we hope that joyful memories of her life will sustain them in the days to come,” he said. “I hope those of you who were her students and colleagues will remember Jeannine for her accomplishments and for the influence she had on your lives.”
The Dr. Jeannine S. Skinner Memorial Scholarship is a way to remember her. Montanaro and Ruggs created a UNC Charlotte crowdfunding page with a $25,000 goal to create this new scholarship in Skinner’s name. So far they have raised nearly $17,000 thanks to donations from Skinner’s family, friends and colleagues.
“Dr. Skinner was passionate about providing opportunities for student research and learning, so to honor this passion, we have established a scholarship fund to support graduate student research and provide funds for conference travel opportunities,” explained Montanaro.
The scholarship is for graduate students who plan to follow in Skinner’s footsteps and conduct research in the fields of psychology and/or gerontology. It will also help fund research related to Skinner’s own interest in neuropsychology and her work on improving the physical and psychological health of seniors through physical activity.
Hopefully, in this way, UNC Charlotte can continue the legacy of inclusion and compassion that Skinner lived her life by.