In a tragic twist of fate, the undergraduate career of Emory College graduate Laura Sawyer ended just as it began four years ago: with a devastating loss of life in her immediate family. Sawyer's maternal grandparents, flying to Atlanta on May 11 to see their granddaughter graduate, perished with more than 100 others in the crash of a ValuJet plane in the Florida Everglades. In September 1992, in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew's ravaging of south Florida, Sawyer's father died of a heart attack while helping with hurricane clean-up efforts.
Rather than being defeated by such tremendous losses at such a young age, Sawyer has dedicated herself to helping those most in need, as evidenced by her spearheading of hurricane relief efforts in her hometown four years ago.
In recognition of that level of commitment to helping others, Emory presented Sawyer with the Marion Luther Brittain Award, the University's highest student service award, at commencement. Presented each year to a graduating senior in Emory College, the award is an expression of gratitude for service performed without expectation of reward or recognition.
In addition to her hurricane relief efforts, Sawyer also has volunteered with the homeless in Atlanta and Miami, and has served as an intern and volunteer with The Atlanta Project. She received Emory's Humanitarian Award in 1995.
On campus, Sawyer's leadership activities have included her election as president of the Student Government Association; membership in Leadership Emory; membership on the President's Commission on the Status of Women; membership in Omicron Delta Kappa, a leadership honor society; and service as sophomore adviser.
A sociology major graduating magna cum laude, Sawyer maintained a 3.8 GPA and was tapped into Alpha Kappa Delta Sociology Honor Society and Mortar Board. Most recently, she earned a Rotary International Scholarship to study abroad for one year in Scotland. Sawyer plans to pursue a master's degree in sociology and ultimately work in social policy.
"Laura is perhaps the student who has amazed me the most in my 10 years at Emory," said Karen Hegtvedt, associate professor of sociology. "Her combination of academic excellence, student leadership and service is the most incredible record I have seen ... [she] exemplifies the best in the Emory community."