Degree awarded to deceased student

Justin Daugherty

The Academic Senate voted this week to award to Becky Blackburn, an NMU student who passed away earlier this year.

The decision came following a joint proposal by Blackburn’s family and her major department to award her the honorary degree. The proposal was passed by the Senate on Tues. April 6 in a unanimous vote.

“We appreciate the hard work she did as a student and regret that her life was brought to a tragic and abrupt end,” said Andy Poe, a professor in the mathematics and computer science department and chair of the Academic Senate.

Josh Corbat, a student representative on the Academic Senate, said that it was fitting that the proposal was presented to the Senate.

“It was good that it was brought to us,” Corbat said. “It was appropriate.”

Daryl Kobie, head of the technology and occupational sciences department, and Becky’s family submitted a proposal for the honorary degree to the Academic Senate on March 12.

Becky was less than a semester away from finishing her degree and was a student in good standing with the department. She was scheduled to graduate with an associate of applied sciences degree in general university studies with an emphasis in hospitality management.

Blackburn, a 20 year old senior, passed away during the weekend of February 12 in an automobile accident. She worked at Vango’s and the Ramada Inn. She was 20 years old.

“Her dream job was to manage a ski resort after she finished college,” said Brittany Blackburn, Becky’s sister.

Becky intended to move to Colorado following graduation to work and spend her free time skiing.

“She went into hospitality management because she always loved helping and working with people,” Brittany said.

She also said that the awarding of the degree is a bittersweet gesture.

“We love the idea of having the degree because she earned it, but we would have much rather had her walk up there and accept it,” Brittany said.

The family is honored that the degree was awarded by the Academic Senate and Northern, Brittany said.

“When a special person like Becky comes so close to making their dreams a reality and then something tragic like this happens, it gives the people left behind some closure,” Brittany said.

Becky is survived by her parents, two brothers, two sisters, a nephew, a niece and her friends.