MUBG Philanthropy: Ed Lambeth Tribute Tree

Schattagen Bench Dedication

Sharon Schattgen speaks at the Robert Schattgen Tribute Bench ceremony. With her are the couple’s children, Courtney and Robert.

Tribute Tree dedication honors life and legacy of journalism ethics scholar

When Fran and Ed Lambeth met at a Bible study in Bloomington, Ind. in 1978 where Ed was serving as a professor of journalism, both had lost their spouses and each was raising a daughter and a son.


“Our families dated for a year and a half before we married,” she said. “The most important thing was the creation of our new family.”

Ed and Fran Lambeth’s wedding photo with their children

Ed and Fran Lambeth’s wedding photo with their children. Left to right, Lincoln, Ian, Ed, Aimee, Fran and Mary: the new family.

When they married, Ed’s children, Lincoln and Mary, were 18 and 16 and Fran’s children, Aimee and Ian, were 10 and 8.


Before meeting Fran, Ed earned his undergraduate and a master’s degree from Northwestern University, served two years in the army, worked as a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal and the Binghamton Press and as a correspondent for Gannett News Service in Washington, DC for six years.


A journalism ethics scholar, Ed launched and directed the Washington Reporting Program for MU’s School of Journalism. He enjoyed a prodigious career as a well-loved educator and a prolific writer and author. He also was the recipient of many honors and awards, including MU’s Thomas Jefferson Award.


“I learned so much from Ed and he was such a patient teacher,” Fran said. “I really enjoyed his career, probably as much as my own 30-year career in nursing.”


In addition to taping and transcribing some of Ed’s research interviews, together the couple launched a local Regional Aids Interfaith Network (RAIN) chapter in 1991. The organization empowers people living with HIV and those at risk to be healthy and stigma free.


“I loved working alongside Ed,” Fran said.


The Lambeth’s had been married 40 years just before Ed passed away on May 2, 2020 after a too-long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Fran and the couple’s children chose to celebrate Ed’s life by dedicating a Mizzou Botanic Garden Tribute Tree at a memorial service in his honor on July 24, 2021.


“I chose a magnolia tree because they grow like grass in Alabama, Ed’s home state,” Fran said of the tree she selected, located outside of MU”s Walter Williams Hall where Ed spent so much of his career. Her own father was a tree farmer and the following unattributed verse, which appeared on the program for her father’s memorial service, and the Bible verse Isaiah 55:12, influenced her decision.


“For me, these two quotes answer the question, ‘Why a Tribute Tree?’”


Fran Lambeth poses with her children in front of the magnolia MUBG Tribute Tree

Fran Lambeth poses with her children in front of the magnolia MUBG Tribute Tree located outside of Walter Williams Hall where Ed spent much of his career. Left to right are Lincoln Lambeth, Mary Naraghi, Fran, Ian Noyes and Aimee O’Connell.

“As long as these trees live, so will my name. I would rather have the whispers of the boughs to sing me a story than a line or two etched in some cold stone. I am now my trees and they are me. That is enough to think about through the cool evening as the light leaves — to sing another day of mine with it.”


Isaiah 55:12: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”


“MUBG’s Tribute Trees have become an historic hallmark of the MU campus. These tributes, along with Tribute Benches, enhance Mizzou’s legacy by highlighting the lives and loves of friends and alumni whose fond ties to campus lead them to make personal and heartfelt permanent statements with these tributes.


“Our hearts go out to Fran and her family for their loss. Ed Lambeth was truly an inspirational and influential educator, friend, husband and father. We are proud and humbled to add his Tribute Tree to the MUBG family of tributes.”

Losing his words

In September 2015, Ed was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and on the way home from the doctor’s office the couple began to make plans for their future.


“From the moment of the diagnosis, he was absolutely gracious,” Fran said.


In December 2016, Ed entered the memory care unit at Cedarhurst, a senior living facility close to their home. As the disease progressed, Ed became less and less verbal.


“It was such a sad thing to watch him lose his words,” Fran said. She wondered what Ed’s struggle to communicate was like for him — someone who had spent his entire life working with words.


“Despite having been warned by doctors that she should expect Ed to forget who she was, whenever he saw her coming, he would throw up his hands in excitement and call out her name.


“For many months, my name is all he could say,” Fran said.


“He had been an avid reader and an avid writer. He had quite an ability — truly a wordsmith. He was an amazing, amazing man.”


Not long before he died, a fellow resident who lived across the hall from Ed reported to Fran that after many months of silence, he clearly heard Ed say, “I am not afraid. Love Jesus. I am secure.”


“Then he said my name,” Fran said. “That memory will always remain with me.”

Amazing Grace

Ed Lambeth

Ed Lambeth

A song that threaded through Ed’s life and a discovery by Fran while going through his papers after his death provided the source of music chosen for the memorial service.


Among Ed’s many pursuits, he directed the National Workshop on the Teaching of Ethics in Journalism from 1983 to 2003, an intensive five-day workshop.


“On the last day of Ed’s 10th Ethics Workshop,” Fran said, “his teaching colleagues presented him with a leather-bound book of letters from participants in the class from its beginning. It was his sixtieth birthday. At the end of the evening, the students stood around him and sang “Amazing Grace”.”


Ed twice served as a Fulbright Scholar, first in Israel in 1997-1998, then in Hungary in 2001-2002, highlights of his career for both of them.


The Lambeths helped start an English-speaking Bible study in Szeged. It was on her way to class that Fran learned from her cab driver of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the United States.


“The overwhelming outpouring of grief and support by Hungarian people was mind-boggling,” Fran said.


During their time in Hungary, the couple had made the acquaintance of several musicians and in preparation for of their departure from Hungary, a benefit concert was presented as a thank you — and a benefit — at the church where the Bible study group met. It was Ed’s 70th birthday and the musicians played and sang “Amazing Grace”.


When going through his papers after his death in 2020, Fran discovered that Ed had written another verse to the song. Ed penned the additional verse 10 years after their marriage, while he served as the Paschal P. Vacca Chair of Liberal Arts at the University of Montevallo in Alabama.


Our paths through darkness took us here.

Our family now is one

Amazing Grace has calmed our fears

We praise what He has done.


“Ed and I were very content to be together. I am so blessed with all of the memories of our shared times. I felt so loved by him. I was fortunate indeed.”



Story by Jan Wiese-Fales