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Sisters’ Legacy Lives On

Posted by on Monday, June 20, 2011 in Giving, Summer 2011.

Lauren and Emily Failla

The abbreviated lives of Emily, BS’03, MEd’05, and Lauren Failla, BS’07, bear witness on an all-too-personal basis that out of tragedy comes triumph. The sisters, alumnae of Peabody’s human and organizational development program, died in tragic accidents, four years and half a world apart from each other. Their lives are now honored in perpetuity with the establishment of the Emily and Lauren Failla Memorial Scholarship at Peabody College.

Emily moved to the Seattle area after earning a master’s degree in elementary education and taught fourth grade in Everett, Wash. She died in a July 2006 rock climbing accident. “Emily loved her time at Peabody-Vanderbilt,” says her mother, Kay. “In addition to making great friends, she had exceptional mentors, especially in graduate school. She was nurtured and encouraged throughout her program in elementary education and graduated feeling confident about her abilities in the classroom.” Kay notes that Emily was especially grateful for that graduate school experience following her first round of parent-teacher conferences. “I recall her saying that some of the interpersonal techniques she learned, ‘actually worked!’

“Lauren struggled with the loss of her sister and the uncertainty of choosing a career path,” Kay says. “Her instructors were patient, compassionate and supportive throughout her time at Peabody-Vanderbilt. Her professors in the art program, in particular, were a huge help to her, both emotionally and academically.”

Frank, Emily, Lauren and Kay Failla with pet dog Lucie, Christmas 2005.

Lauren attended graduate school in London and earned a master of arts degree at Sotheby’s Institute of Art (Manchester University). “She found the organization of assigned group projects a simple thing to do and gave credit to her background in HOD at Peabody,” Kay says of Lauren’s graduate experience. She also worked with youth at St. Peter’s Church and had decided to work with children in art therapy. Lauren died in a snorkeling accident in India’s Andaman Islands in April 2010.

But sometimes good things happen to good people, and a movement was underway to fully endow a scholarship in the girls’ honor. Frank Failla, their father, works with WebMD as vice president of tax and finance. He learned that his colleagues had contacted Vanderbilt about creating a scholarship. “Returning to work at WebMD after Lauren’s death, Marty Wygod, chairman of the board, and his wife, Pam, had the vision to establish the scholarship at Peabody-Vanderbilt in memory of Emily and Lauren,” he says. “They recruited colleagues of mine at WebMD who also thought it was a wonderful way to honor our daughters. We were thrilled to learn that the scholarship was in the works and overwhelmed with gratitude to these generous individuals.”

Vanderbilt and WebMD moved quickly and were able to offer scholarships to two students this academic year. “We received gracious notes from each of the students, expressing their gratitude for the scholarship and explaining their career paths,” the Faillas report. “One is a senior who will be graduating soon, and the other is a current freshman who is still considering her options. We could relate to that!”

The vibrant lives of Emily and Lauren now have lasting influence on the lives of others. “There are incredible educational and community resources available through Peabody-Vanderbilt,” the Faillas say. “We hope that these recipients will use such opportunities to develop their talents to contribute and live their lives with gusto!”



  • Mikael S.

    January 6th, 2012

    I never knew Emily or Lauren, but I was at the Andaman Islands in 2010 when Lauran’s unfortunate accident happened. A truly tragic story and my best wishes go to both girls and their family.

    In light of the above, I am glad to hear about the scholarship. It doesn’t make up for lost lives and for two amazing sisters, but it is touching nonetheless.

    Mikael S.

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