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Jackson given posthumous degree

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During a tearful ceremony held Friday, Aug. 19, before the faculty and staff of Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus, the family of Cheryl Jackson was awarded a posthumous degree – the first of its kind since the passing of the Michael Lawdon Branscum Act.

Jackson was tragically killed May 25 in a tornado outbreak that ravaged Franklin and Johnson counties. The 42-year-old mother received an Associate in Applied Science in health information technology from Arkansas Tech-Ozark in December 2010, and was one semester short of being awarded a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies with an emphasis in public relations from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

Before presenting the bachelor’s degree to her husband, Terry Jackson of Etna, Arkansas Tech-Ozark Chancellor Jo Alice Blondin read testimonials from several of Cheryl’s former teachers, including Angie Medlock, who also taught Jackson at Alma High School.

“If ever a student could be counted on to come in with a great smile on her face, it was Cheryl,” Medlock said. “Very soft spoken and happy. Having had her as a high school student, I have seen how she had developed into a wonderful young woman – a loving mother and a dedicated student pursuing her dream.”

Blondin said, “While Cheryl's education was important to her, her family was more so. From the Tech family to Cheryl's, here is a gesture that expresses our recognition of her accomplishments and ambitions.”

State Rep. Leslee Post of Ozark was on hand for the ceremony held in the Student Services building. She said, “I am humbled, honored and privileged to be a part of a ceremony that celebrated someone so deserving of her degree. My prayers remain with the Jackson family and others who were victimized in the storms.”

The Branscum Act, which was authored by state Rep. David Branscum of Marshall and approved this legislative session by the Arkansas General Assembly, encourages higher education institutions to establish a process for awarding a posthumous degree to students who die while enrolled in a degree program. The act went into effect in July and is named after Branscum’s son, who died in 2005 as a result of a car accident.