In the hours and days following the Boston Marathon bombing, Richard P. Campbell, a plain-spoken trial lawyer raised in Medford, was flooded with calls from friends around the country.
They all had the same question: Was Krystle Campbell, the 29-year-old woman killed in the attack, part of his family?
Strictly speaking, she wasn’t.
But as new information drew a more complete picture of her life, he couldn't help but feel a certain kinship.
They both grew up in Medford. They both went to Medford High School. And they both paid their way through the University of Massachusetts Boston.
“She certainly could have been a member of my family,” Campbell, 66, said recently at his law office in Charlestown. “She certainly could have lived next door to me on Yeomans Avenue in Medford. She could have been my classmate at Medford High School.”
Campbell felt compelled to do something to honor her memory. So Campbell, a UMass system trustee, and his wife, Barbara, have donated $300,000 toward a scholarship fund at the school bearing Krystle’s name. The couple had a fund for the school about a decade ago but decided to increase its amount and rename it in honor of Krystle.
The fund will support scholarships and other projects for students pursuing careers in business, with a preference for female students.
The Campbells’ goal is to raise $1 million for the fund.
“Something awful happened to her,” he said. “We would like to have something good come out of it.”
Krystle’s father, William Campbell Jr., said his family was overwhelmed when the university approached them about the scholarship. The scholarship will complement his daughter’s infectious urge to help all those she came in contact with, whether at school or at one of the restaurants she managed, he said.
“She always had that hard work ethic and strength; I don’t know where she got it,” he said. “Always going, going, going with work, college, softball teams.”
He said her gregarious energy and bubbly smile would inspire the scholarship recipients.
“I hope they think, ‘I can be just as good as she can be, I can try hard and work hard and be that type of person’,” he said. “ I think it gives them the initiative to work hard and not give up, ever.”
Richard Campbell said he wears his Medford roots “on my shoulder like a giant blue-collar chip.” He drove a taxi and collected trash on the highway to pay his way through college, so he said he empathizes with today’s working students.
“You always hope that you can improve somebody’s lot in life,” he said.
Campbell said he will commit his personal time to spread Krystle’s story and raise money for the scholarship.
Among those he is trying to reach is another famous Medford High graduate, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, a billionaire philanthropist.
Krystle Campbell, who studied sociology at the university from 2005-07, received a posthumous degree during an emotional ceremony in May.
She finished all her course requirements and only had to complete a writing assignment before receiving her degree, said Chancellor J. Keith Motley.
“Krystle will continue to live on in these individuals because they will go on with their lives grateful at the opportunity to have this scholarship,” Motley said. “They will carry her name forward as they do great things.”