Special Flag Honors Memories Of MGA Students And Employees

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Thursday, April 1, 2021 12:00 AM
Categories: Faculty/Staff | Students | Pressroom

Macon, GA


In recent months, Middle Georgia State University (MGA) students, employees, and visitors may have noticed that, from time to time, something new is displayed on the outdoor poles used to fly the flags of the U.S. and Georgia on all five campuses. 

Since January, whenever the Student Affairs office learns of the death of a currently enrolled student (or a current member of the faculty or staff), the University temporarily displays a simple purple flag, bearing MGA’s torch logo, beneath the other two. After a week, a Student Affairs office representative – either Dr. Jennifer Brannon or Dr. Michael Stewart – places a replica of the displayed flag in a special frame and hand-delivers it to the student’s family. (In the case of faculty or staff, the employee’s colleagues present the flag to the family.)

“We’ve been considering how we can consistently recognize those occasions when we lose a member of our MGA community,” said Brannon, vice president of Student Affairs. “We always have an empty chair at graduation ceremonies as a symbolic gesture recognizing those who have passed away, but we also wanted to do something that was a little more personal. I saw an article where Georgia Southern University presents flags to families and I thought that would be a great practice for MGA to adopt.”

Like most colleges and universities, MGA follows a very specific protocol when learning of the death of a currently enrolled student.

After confirming the death through an official source – a public safety department, a funeral home, a published obituary - the Student Affairs office notifies the student’s instructors. Part of that notification is making the instructors aware of available counseling resources should the classmates of the deceased student feel they need them.

Appropriate MGA offices, tasked with assuring academic and fiscal record-keeping processes, are also notified, allowing for the removal of the deceased student’s name from text, calling, and email lists - the latter step to prevent communications being sent that might add to the family’s grief.

In addition, the president’s office is notified and given the student’s address so that a condolence card can be sent.

The Human Resources office, not Student Affairs, handles the notification process when a current faculty or staff member dies. But Brannon and Stewart felt it was important to include employees in the new flag tradition. 

“We’re all part of the MGA family,” said Stewart, assistant vice president for Student Affairs.

In the past, Student Affairs tried annually hosting a short in-person memorial ceremony on one of the campuses to honor all MGA community members who died during the previous year. But with the University’s five campuses spread out over Georgia’s central region, it wasn’t convenient for all families to attend. In the case of families of fully online students, a fair number of whom don’t live in the region or even the state, attending a memorial ceremony is not at all practical.

“We were also worried that someone might get overlooked,” Stewart said.  

Brannon and Stewart have committed to personally delivering flags to families whenever possible. Of course, it wouldn’t be feasible to drive to, say, Ohio, to present a flag to the family of a student who was enrolled in a fully online program. But in the next day or two, either Brannon or Stewart will travel to Peachtree City, Ga., to deliver a flag to the family of a recently deceased student.

“We think its worthwhile commitment,” Brannon said. “The families are going through a lot. It feels like the least we can do.”