Honoring the journey

Linda FournierLinda Fournier had one of those smiles that could light up a room.

Her infectious laughter often echoed through the hallways of University of Michigan-Dearborn’s College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL) Building.

“She was a fireball,” said Sandie Post, a senior secretary who worked closely with Fournier in CASL Advising and Student Records. “She had such an outstanding personality. She was outgoing and could laugh like crazy.”

Fournier’s passion for art history inspired her to return to academia as a nontraditional student and pursue a bachelor’s degree.

This weekend, Fournier had planned to don her cap and gown and receive her diploma with her fellow classmates at the Fieldhouse. But after a courageous four-year battle with cancer, Fournier passed away in August, just a few credits shy of graduation.

CASL Dean Martin Hershock knew how important education was to Fournier, and he wanted to honor her hard work and determination. A few weeks prior to her death, Hershock visited Fournier to hand deliver a certificate of achievement.

“It was a tremendous honor and privilege to be able to meet with her in person, to present her with her certificate of achievement, to share with her the words of my colleagues and to listen to her memories of her time on campus,” Hershock said. “I wanted her to know how very proud we all were of her and what she had accomplished, and how much she inspired those whose path she had crossed. As I said to her, she will always be a member of the UM-Dearborn family.”

Hershock also delivered a prayer shawl, which Post crafted for Fournier.

“Linda told Marty that I was her little guardian angel when she was here on campus,” Post said. “I was always keeping an eye out for her.”

That includes a couple instances where Fournier, weak from ongoing cancer treatment, passed out in class. Post, a cancer survivor of 20 years, established a close friendship with Fournier because they could relate to cancer’s ill effects.

“You’re tired all of the time,” she said. “Some days, just putting one foot in front of the other is hard. The smallest task could be so exhausting, and to think that Linda was taking three to four classes and carrying that load. It’s pretty remarkable.”

Fournier inevitably came up a few credits shy of graduation, but her drive to earn a diploma prompted university leaders to grant her a certificate of achievement this semester.

“They don’t give these out a dime a dozen,” Post said. “They’re earned. To get that close with everything that was going on in Linda’s life, she earned that certificate.”

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