OCCC’s first posthumous degrees awarded to students

Ethan Wayne Hendricks

Two OCCC students who died before they completed their coursework will be receiving their degrees this year in the Spring Commencement Ceremony.

On April 16 the OCCC Board of Regents unanimously approved the request to award posthumous degrees to Erica Lynn (Dover) Carpenter and Ethan Wayne Hendricks.

Later that week, on April 19, the Oklahoma State Regents of Higher Education also approved the proposal. These will be the first posthumous degrees ever awarded at OCCC.

Because these are the first of their kind, school officials Marion Paden, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, and Alan Stringfellow, registrar, had to research and develop a policy for posthumous degrees.

Doing this took over a year, Paden said.

Hendricks, a sophomore who majored in journalism, had only 18 more credit hours before his graduation. He had served as a writer for OCCC’s newspaper, the Pioneer.

He won awards for his writing, including first place in sports writing and third place in editorial writing from the Oklahoma Collegiate Media Association. He also won a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Both award ceremonies took place in spring 2011.

Hendricks was set to become the editor for the Pioneer during the fall semester when he died in a car accident in early August.

Jennifer Pearsall, a former OCCC student and Pioneer photographer, was the one who proposed the idea of a posthumous degree for her friend Hendricks, Paden said.

Pearsall said she felt as if he worked hard to complete his degree, and he deserved it.

Although Pearsall wanted it to be a surprise to Hendricks’ family, they had to be notified in order to make arrangements for the ceremony, Stringfellow said.

Debra Dover, Erica (Dover) Carpenter’s mother, was the one who requested her daughter’s posthumous degree.

Erica (Dover) Carpenter was a 34-year-old mother of two majoring in nursing student at OCCC. She was known as a good student with good grades and only had 6 credit hours to complete her studies before her death in early March of 2011.

For a person to receive a posthumous degree from OCCC, the request must be submitted to the registrar where it is reviewed and verified.

The registrar notifies the vice president of Enrollment and Student Services, where it is reviewed and verified again. This process repeats itself until it is both reviewed and verified by the OCCC Board of Regents and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

The family is then notified of this approval and arrangements are made for a family member or friend to participate in graduation in honor of the deceased if they choose. The conferral is also noted in the commencement program, Paden said.

To contact Shalya Allen, email onlineeditor@occc.edu.

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