Student’s academic, military life an inspiration to other graduates

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Sandra Brown and her mother, Brenda Stewart, pose in front of a waterfall. Brown will be posthumously awarded a degree at this college’s graduation ceremony May 11. Courtesy

Honors and Distinguished Graduate ceremony planned for May 7.

By Michael Smith

Sandra Antelicia Brown, the administrative assistant program’s 2019 Distinguished Graduate and a candidate for an associate of applied science degree, will not walk the stage at commencement May 11 wearing the gold, black, blue, purple, silver, red-white-and-blue, and black-and-platinum cords that symbolize her accomplishments.

The 31-year-old Phi Theta Kappa honor society member also will not attend the Honors and Distinguished Graduate ceremony May 7.

Instead, in her absence, her mother, Brenda Stewart, will don her daughter’s red graduation robe and seven cords to accept the degree at graduation. She also will accept the Distinguished Graduate award for her daughter at the honors ceremony.

Brown died Oct. 21 of complications from medications.

She will be the first Distinguished Graduate to be awarded posthumously since the program began in 2012, events Coordinator Lauren Sjulin said.

Graduating from this college was important to Brown, her mother said April 10 in a telephone interview.

“It was a milestone,” she said. “She was all about accolades herself as well as anybody that deserved it.”

Elizabeth Haan, administrative computer technology coordinator, said Brown had well-defined goals.

“She knew exactly what her skill set was and how she wanted to progress with her degree.”

Professor Rena Doering praised Brown after teaching her in three classes.

“She was all of the good things you would want in a student,” she said. “She truly excelled at everything she did. “

The seven cords adorning her graduation regalia show Brown’s commitment to excellence.

In addition to the purple Distinguished Graduate cord and the gold one for the college honor society, her graduation cords include black for a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher, blue for the college’s Honors Academy, silver for Student Ambassador, red-white-and-blue for military service, and black and platinum for the National Society of Leadership and Success.

Sandra Brown was a staff sergeant in the Air Force. Courtesy

She also received a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship.

Her extensive academic accomplishments don’t tell the whole story, her mother said.

Brown served in the U.S. Air Force five years where she attained the rank of staff sergeant and accumulated awards including the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, U.S. Air Force Longevity Service Award and the U.S. Air Force Outstanding Unit Service Award.

She worked as a nutritional medicine specialist at Brook Army Medical Center.

“Whether they were birth patients, paraphiliac, maternity, geriatric, obese or anorexic, she charted and monitored all of their eating habits,” Stewart said.

“She was responsible for making sure their food served as their medicine.”

Brown started two businesses, Sandi’s Bags & Things to market handbags and Medaci to sell herbal hair products.

Brown loved African-American art and literature and nature, especially plant life, her mother said.

Stewart said Brown was always looking for ways to learn more.

“She was all about knowledge,” she said. “She was always wondering why people were not reading often.”

As time permitted, Stewart and Brown traveled together 2016-2018.

“During those two years, we discussed everything,” Stewart said. “Anything that needed to be revealed or disclosed was laid out on the table. We always talked about what we need to do to become a better person.”

Brown’s main goal in life was to help people, and she cared deeply about everyone around her, Stewart said.

“When she was growing up, she would always find a kid who nobody paid attention to,” she said. “She would always gravitate to those kids and help them.”

Brown continued that into adulthood.

“She would always make sure people had something to eat and received help with bills,” Stewart said.

“She made sure everyone had their basic needs.”

Stewart spoke of the impact of losing her once-healthy daughter.

“I lost my friend,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Stewart said that Brown’s life should serve as an inspiration to students.

“Learning about someone who has accomplished so much will influence people to achieve their goals,” she said. “She was always a leader, a mentor and a humanitarian at heart.

“I will not let her legacy die out.”

The Honors and Distinguished Graduate ceremony will be 6-7:30 p.m. May 7 in the auditorium of McAllister Fine Arts Center.

Commencement will be at 10 a.m. May 11 in Freeman Coliseum.


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