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Graduation Weekend Shines Spotlight On A Bear's Fighting Spirit

June 16, 2010

Baylor University conferred degrees upon approximately 2,000 graduates during spring commencement exercises May 14-15, adding to the more than 140,000 living graduates who represent Baylor daily all over the world.

In addition to the awarding of diplomas, the ceremonies also honored Outstanding Professors for 2009-10. Dr. Kevin Dougherty (sociology), Dr. Linda McManness (Spanish), Alex Parker (jazz studies), Wiff Rudd, BMED '77 (trumpet) and Dr. Kenneth Van Treuren (mechanical engineering) were each honored for their teaching, while Dr. Lucy Barnard-Brak (educational psychology), Dr. Ian Gravagne (electrical and computer engineering), Dr. Thomas Kidd (history) and Dr. David Music (church music) were recognized for scholarship. Lori Spies (nursing) was similarly honored for her contributions to the academic community.

Each of the new Baylor graduates worked hard to earn his or her degree, but perhaps none had more obstacles to overcome than the School of Social Work's Ashley Brown, MSW '10 (pictured).

To finish her master's degree, Brown had to fight through kidney failure for the second time in her life. At age 17, a routine check-up found one of her kidneys was failing; her mother proved a suitable donor, and the operation allowed her to carry on with her life for 10 years. Last fall, however, familiar symptoms returned, and doctors began to look for another donor.

All the while, Brown continued to work toward earning her master's in social work, holding a 35-hour-a-week internship and working with classmates on final projects, even when it was only via Skype from a hospital bed.

She made her final presentation May 4, walked across the Ferrell Center stage May 15, and underwent a successful nine-hour surgery May 19 to receive a kidney donated by her brother, Ryan. Though she will spend most of the summer recovering, she already has feelers out for job opportunities in the social work world where she can help others.

"People ask me if I don't wonder why this happened to me and if I'm not angry with God," she said. "I can't be mad because I feel like everything I've gone through is preparing me for a bigger picture. It's not just about me. If I can help somebody and keep somebody from going through the fear and confusion I went through, then it has all been so that I could serve a greater purpose."

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