Christine Elizabeth Schlendorf left us on May 6, 2021 after her long and courageous battle with cancer. She was 46 years old. She had an incredible gift for bringing people together, she truly made us better people, and the world is better because she was in it.
Christine was born on August 7, 1974 on Long Island. Her childhood was full of family and friends and determination. She was a tiny little thing, but so tough, strong and smart, and had no problem keeping up with her 2 brothers and all the neighborhood kids. She didn't sleep a lot when she was little. We would often wake in the morning to find an entire Lego city built in her bedroom. When she was 10, she attempted to rescue (steal?) a penguin from the Bronx Zoo, and she spent the rest of her life trying to figure out how to get one of her very own.
She had a competitive spirit - she hated to lose at anything and constantly looked for ways to learn and improve, and to do it better next time. She was raised on a love of sports which became a passion for the Yankees and 'Cuse, and she was a lifelong fan of both. Even today, her apartment is filled with memorabilia from her favorite teams.
Her interest in architecture started young and when she got to high school, she couldn't wait to take a technical drawing class. When the teacher told her that girls couldn't be architects – she stood her ground and graduated with top honors and the award for technical drawing at her high school. Her high school years were busy and fun, she played softball and field hockey and managed the wrestling team.
Christine had an Architecture degree from Syracuse University and was in the Honors Program there. She loved her time at SU, basically living in the studio and making life-long friends. She spent a year studying in Florence and traveled all over Europe. Her final project was (what else?) a design for a New York sports stadium.
Christine joined Perkins Eastman in 1997, and she had an amazing and accomplished career. She was a leader in their New York office, in the K-12 Education practice. She designed learning environments around the world, including schools in Hong Kong, Italy, Bahrain, Cairo, Ghana, around the US and many, many New York area schools. Students and communities all around the world benefit from her hard work and dedication. One of Christine's special gifts was working with her clients and with the children – she often engaged the kids in the planning and design of their schools. She was simply amazing. She was instrumental in the development of the women's leadership and mentoring programs at Perkins Eastman and was one of their first Board members. In 2012, she was honored to be named to the BDC Network's 40 under 40 list, honoring young architects. But for Christine, it was about the work, not the awards. It was about creating environments for learning, and getting to know the children and staff. She was so proud of being an architect.
Her passion for learning environments took her well beyond the studio; she was deeply involved in volunteer, fundraising, and development efforts for the schools and communities in which she worked. Through these many efforts—among them the Peter Schlendorf Foundation, New York Cares, We Will Rise, her annual book donation drives, CANstruction, and many service projects at her schools. She advocated for educational access and opportunity in every way she could. She recently helped to fund Ascend, a supportive learning center in Brooklyn for children to have better access to learning resources during Covid.
She was all in, every time.
Her colleagues at Perkins Eastman said
that "To know Christine was to have an immediate friend, a tireless mentor, and an inspirational example. She embodied the best of what our profession ought to be, and the best of Perkins Eastman."
Christine had season tickets to the Yankees, and watched Syracuse basketball faithfully, texting with friends and family throughout the nail biters. She once wore her prized Patrick Flatley jersey to drop the puck at an Islanders game. She loved tennis and went to the US Open and Wimbeldon with her mom. One of her very few regrets was never getting to the Australian Open.
Christine loved the theatre, and went to so many shows, both on and off-Broadway. She was always up for a theatrical adventure, sometimes dashing to her seat directly from a client meeting. The last show she saw was West Side Story, and she was looking forward to seeing Six as soon as Broadway reopened.
Christine loved to travel and enjoyed trips across the US, Europe and around the world, mostly with her favorite travelling companion, Karen.
Christine loved her family so incredibly much. Her relationship with her mother was precious and rare. They had so many adventures – and loved spending time together doing the things they both loved and visiting their incredibly large family. She loved her brothers fiercely. When we lost Pete, she became the driving force behind so much of the good we have done in his memory, from banning ephedra to helping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide educational opportunities for children in our community.
Christine never wanted cancer to define her. Her fight was long and courageous, there were many small victories and lots of terrible days. Some days, she would get the chemo, then go straight back to work. Through it all, she said "yes" to every experimental treatment, every clinical trial and worked with her team at Memorial Sloan Kettering to find a cure for her and for everyone else who suffers this terrible, terrible disease. She was relentless, but so was the cancer.
We want to thank the team at MSK for their tireless efforts and incredible care, especially Dr. Larry Norton and Karen Drucker, NP, who gave so much of themselves and were Christine's advocates and friends throughout this ordeal.
We thank the team at Perkins Eastman, who loved and supported Christine over the last 20+ years, but especially through the last 6 ½, giving her the flexibility to get the treatment she needed and always allowing her to do the work that she loved so much, especially Brad, Mary-Jean and Peggy.
We also want to thank the many people who run the operations at Christine's building and Karen's building who have been so kind, so considerate, and so incredibly helpful to Christine and Karen through it all. Truly, these guys have been heroes.
While her hospice time was brief, the team from VNSNY were wonderful, kind, available and present. We thank you.
Christine is predeceased by her brother Pete, her father Tom, her beloved grandmother Betty Jane Vaughn, and Grandparents Charles and Marion Schlendorf, uncle Brian Thompson and aunt Carol Brown, and Maria Pia Casanuova Vaughn.
She is survived by her heartbroken mother, Karen, and brother David, his wife Jennifer, her nephews Peter, Andrew, John and James, her goddaughter Natalia Scaglione, and grandfather Dr. Harold Vaughn, plus many, many aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends.