MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A student aspiring to change lives and help others died in January 2015 before receiving the chance to fulfill that dream. However, the school she attended has not forgotten her dream and will soon make it a reality.
University of Tennessee Health Science Center will award Rachel Stevens a posthumous degree during the college's spring graduation ceremony on May 26.
Stevens was pursuing an occupational therapy degree when she died. Her parents, Randy and Katrina Stevens of Batesville, Arkansas, will accept the degree on her behalf.
"Because she did not have the opportunity to fulfill her dream of earning a master's degree in occupational therapy, Rachel will be recognized through the awarding of a master of occupational therapy degree on graduation day," Anne Zachry, PhD, OTR/L, chair and assistant professor in the UTHSC Department of Occupational Therapy, said.
The awarding of a posthumous degree is a rare occurrence.
This is not the first time the school has honored Stevens' memory. In 2016, the Rachel Kay Stevens Therapy Center opened its doors in the Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities on the campus. The center is the only student-run, pro bono pediatric occupational therapy center in the country. It offers occupational therapy services to children of families who are uninsured or underinsured.
"Rachel's legacy lives on through The Rachel Kay Stevens Therapy Center," Dr. Zachry said. "Because of Rachel, underserved children and their families in the Mid-South are receiving much-needed OT services."
The clinic has served more than 270 children and families since the doors opened.
"Rachel will forever have her official presence in the MOT Class of 2017," Katrina Stevens, mother, said. "For that, we are so grateful. We feel 100 percent supported and loved by the UT family, who have all had a part in remembering Rachel."
The ceremony is set for 1:30 p.m. at the Memphis Cook Convention Center Grand Ballroom on May 26.