Students pay their last respects to slain professor

As Sheryl Shivers-Blackwell’s family prepares to say their final goodbyes Wednesday, the FAMU community gathered to mourn her death Monday evening.

Two projectors displayed pictures of Shivers-Blackwell and her friends and family as the community, faculty and students filled the pews of the New Mt. Zion AME Church to mourn the death of what many called a dedicated and caring professor.

The associate professor in the division of management in the School of Business and Industry was found dead Thursday evening. Her husband, Baron Blackwell, was also found injured in the home and died Saturday. Police have classified the case as a homicide and say they do not believe there was a third party involved.

The funeral services for Shivers-Blackwell will be held in her hometown of Daphne, Ala. Many students at the memorial said they came because they would not be able to attend the funeral but wanted to pay their last respects.

“The community and FAMU have definitely been a great support,” said Sherry Edwards, Shiver-Blackwell’s cousin. “The family has received a lot of phone calls and messages from people trying to reach out.”

During the memorial service Dr. Lydia McKinley-Floyd, Dean of the School of Business and Industry said the SBI family prepared a decorated box for the family of the bereaved to be filled with “loving memories and thoughts” from friends and faculty. Employees in SBI said it has been very difficult to deal with the loss of such an amazing teacher.

Students felt the same way. “I was very appreciative of her class,” said Brandon Alexander, a sixth year professional MBA student from Columbus, Ohio who took two of Shiver-Blackwell’s classes. “She was able to motivate her students without using the fire and brimstone technique. I’m sure she is going to missed because everyone always looked forward to her Human Resources class.”

McKinley-Floyd spoke on behalf of FAMU’s new president James Ammons saying, “I want to make sure that her children are well taken care of; I want to make sure that they are Rattlers.”

The Florida A&M University School of Business and Industry along with the Florida A&M University foundation are starting a fund for Shivers-Blackwell’s children Shelby Lauren, 6, and Baron Spencer, 3.

Although those in attendance recalled different memories of their times with Shivers-Blackwell, they all commented on the same thing-her signature smile and upbeat personality. “Even as a kid she was always smiling and always so upbeat.” said Edwards. “She always strived to be the best and when she made goals for herself she met them.”

Students said that her drive and accomplishments inspired them in their lives. Anitra Brown Charles, a former student and friend called her an angel. “I say that she’s an angel not because she’s passed, but because of what she did for me while she was alive. I don’t know where I would be in life if it weren’t for her.”

Charles said that Shivers-Blackwell inspired her to continue to pursue her masters and doctorial degrees while being a good wife and mother.

Edwards said Shivers-Blackwell was always an excellent wife and mother. “(This) was a very sad situation. She definitely did not deserve to leave the earth this way. She loved her husband and loved her children.”