Ashley Sandau Honored With Memorial Scholarship at St. Bonaventure

Dan Miller

LOS ANGELES — A memorial scholarship in the name of Ashley Julia Sandau, the daughter of Lion’s Den executive Shelly Sandau, has been established at her alma mater St. Bonaventure University in Bonaventure, N.Y.

Sandau said the scholarship, which was set up last year, is being awarded annually to an outstanding St. Bonaventure student majoring in Journalism/Mass Communication that is either a junior or senior. Ashley graduated from St. Bonaventure in 2010 with a 4.0 grade-point average and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She earned her master’s degree in integrated marketing just a year later in 2011.

In March 2012, Ashley died from injuries that she sustained after being hit by a car while crossing the street in Los Angeles, where she had been working for six months in the marketing department for System Jo. She had just turned 24.

Sandau, the veteran purchasing manager for the Lion’s Den chain of adult retail stores, told XBIZ from his home in Germany that the Ashley Sandau Memorial Scholarship has been funded by several of his friends and colleagues in the adult industry who preferred to remain anonymous.

“It took $25,000 to get it started and they actually have $36,000 in it already,” Sandau explained. “What happened was several people in the industry — my boss is one of them — donated so much money to get it kicked off. They don’t want it publicized. That’s just the type of people they are.”

Sandau continued, “It means the world to my wife and I. Ashley was such a wonderful person and for her legacy to live on virtually forever, that just means the world to both of us.”

Ashley earned a scholarship from St. Bonaventure for each year she was enrolled, including one that helped her through grad school. Sandau said the reason the scholarship goes to a junior or senior is to insure that a serious student is the beneficiary.

“We set that up because I told everyone that Ashley was an excellent student, just an all-around excellent person period, and we don’t want to give it to someone that may drop out of school,” he said.

Sandau said that Ashley’s marketing position with System Jo, the Southern California-based pleasure products manufacturer, was her first “real job” out of college. During high school she had worked at Meeder’s restaurant in Ripley, N.Y., where the Sandau’s still own a home. Then she waited tables at ZeBro’s Harbor House restaurant on the shores of Lake Erie in Westfield, N.Y., about eight miles from Ripley, during her summers as a college student. During the school year, Ashley worked at St. Bonaventure’s fitness center.

Sandau said the idea of creating a scholarship in Ashley’s honor came to him a day after the tragic accident.

“The morning after, [New Sensations owner] Scott Taylor came to the hospital where Ashley was and picked me up. I couldn’t sleep that night, and the next morning Scott and I got up. I don’t know why it even came to me, but I said I want to start a memorial scholarship to honor Ashley. Scott stayed home with me that week, and [System Jo owner Solomon Levy] was talking back and forth with me. He said he would love to do that every year. And we want to have it on March 30 for her rebirth into her new life. Solomon seems like a very spiritual person,” Sandau said, adding that Lion’s Den founder Michael Moran was instrumental in initiating the process of establishing the fund.

“Michael took care of all that,” Sandau noted.

Ashley touched lives everywhere she went, so much so that the local community helped establish a second scholarship in her name. That scholarship, which needed $7,500 to be kicked off, is to be awarded to a Chautauqua County resident that is attending St. Bonaventure. Friends of the Sandau family worked closely with Shelly’s wife Liz Harte to set up the scholarship.

Sandau said that when he was traveling back to New York after Ashley’s passing that something happened that gave him pause.

“My son [Matt] flew out from Denver. He said, ‘I can’t believe they’re routing me through Las Vegas. I’ve never been routed through Las Vegas. Southwest always flies into [Chicago] Midway or Baltimore and then into [Buffalo, N.Y.],’” Sandau recalled.

Sandau’s trip back East entailed him flying from Burbank, Calif., to Las Vegas, and then on to Buffalo. “And he and I were on the same flight, just like as if Ashley set that all up,” Sandau said.

Ashley actually had been planning to move back home last Spring to accept an unpaid journalism internship in Erie, Pa., about 20 miles from Ripley, Sandau said.

“She told me, ‘This is my passion. This is what I really want to do,’” he said.

Sandau and his daughter attended the 10th anniversary XBIZ Awards in January 2012 in Santa Monica, Calif.

“And she was just thrilled,” Sandau recalled. “When Ashley was a little girl every time she would see a limo she would say, ‘Follow that limo, I want to see if there is a star in there.’ She was just awestruck at the show, taking pictures of everyone. It was a delight for me to see her being so happy to be at that awards show.”

Sandau said that Ashley lived in Bitburg, Germany, on the Air Force base where her mother still works, for extended stretches from sixth grade until she graduated from high school.

“She always considered Germany her home,” Sandau said. “She would spend winter school years in Germany, and then every summer at our house in Ripley. So she got to see both sides of the world. She was so well-rounded.”

Sandau said that before the family’s memorial service for Ashley, the priest asked him to describe her.

“I told him that Ashley was the closest thing to perfect that I’ve ever known as a human being,” Sandau said. “She found good to say about everyone, never had anything bad to say about anyone. The priest has been in that parish for 50-something years and he told me, ‘I’ve never seen such an outpouring of love in my 50-something years at this parish.’ I couldn’t believe there were about 95 arrangements of flowers.”    

Dr. Dennis Wilkins, a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure, said in an email exchange with Ashley in January 2011 that she defined the word “grace.”

“I gave you that word because I hoped you would recognize in yourself what I have seen in you for years, and the reason I will never forget you,” Wilkins wrote in the email to Ashley, which Sandau shared with XBIZ. “Too few people have the innate character and courage to act with grace under pressure. I've never seen you do otherwise, and it's a principal reason I admire you so.”

Even St. Bonaventure held a memorial service for her.

“It was very touching to us,” Sandau said. “My father-in-law was a graduate of St. Bonaventure, an early 1950s graduate. It was the proudest day in his life when Ashley decided to go to St. Bonaventure.”

The Sandau family wrote an open letter about their daughter in introducing the scholarship. It is printed below in its entirety:

“Some of you may have known Ashley through her job with System Jo and some of you may have known her through her father, Shelly Sandau. Last March 30th she was crossing the street in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles and was struck by a car and killed instantly. Sadly, her father, Shelly, witnessed the accident.

“Ashley attended schools in Germany through the Department of Defense Schools since her mother, Liz Harte, teaches on an Air Force Base there. She graduated in 2006 from Bitburg High School and was the salutatorian of her class. She was on the swim team for six years and was captain of her team her senior year. She also played soccer all through high school and ran cross country.

“Ashley attended St. Bonaventure University in upstate N.Y. There she majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. She also ran cross country all through college. She loved to run and even ran through injuries. She graduated in 2010 and went on to get her master’s degree in 2011 in Integrated Marketing. She graduated with top honors.

“All who knew Ashley knew what a beautiful person she was. Not only beautiful on the outside, but she was even more beautiful on the inside. She always had kind words to say about everyone. She was very humble. She is sadly missed by her family and friends.”

Pictured: Shelly Sandau, Ashley Sandau and Liz Harte.