By Matthew Kogut
Dr. Shonda Wilson, 39, died unexpectedly on Sept. 23 after suffering from what was believed to have been a blood clot in her lung. She was an Associate Professor of English at Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) teaching classes that ranged from Developmental Writing to Advanced Expository Writing.
Originally from Thomasville, Georgia, she received her B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame and her Masters degree and Ph.D. in English literature from Stony Brook University. She taught at SCCC for more than 10 years and also previously worked at the Eastern Campus.
Wilson was a part of SCCC’s Title III Project Administration from 2002 to 2004 and was appointed to serve as an Online Faculty Mentor for the Spring 2010 semester under Distance Education. She was also a member of the Ammerman Senate Ammerman Campus Technology Committee.
“All I can say is that Shonda lived her life the way we all should; learning as much as she could, caring so much that she spent most of her life learning how to help others the best way she could!…She touched many people’s lives in a very positive way. I even ran into friends of mine at the wake that knew Shonda for over 10 years and I never knew they were friends until I saw them at her wake. I’m sure Shonda is now helping us in spirit…” said Steve Ortiz-Rios, Network Administrator and Specialist of SCCC, who worked with Wilson on the Ammerman Senate Campus Technology Committee while he was chair of the committee.
Stephen O’Sullivan, President of the Ammerman Faculty Senate noted that Wilson was on the Senate’s Technology Committee from its beginning in 2007, and before that she was a member of the College Computing Council. She also belonged to several organizations, including the Modern Language Society and the National Association of African American Studies.
Communications Professor Princess Williams, a friend of Wilson’s for eight years, remembers the kind of person she was and many conversations they had together on how to make things better for students and teachers alike. When new adjuncts were hired, they worked together on the new adjunct orientation, and Wilson’s part was always to help teachers teach in different and effective ways.
“She knew her stuff and had high standards for her students,” said Williams. “She was here to teach her students how to write and express themselves. She knew how to reach her students. She was dedicated to her students, dedicated to teaching, and dedicated to the college.”
Williams referred to her friend as a “quiet power” who never spoke up unless she felt she needed to. As much of a “quiet power” that she was, she was also a very private person and was a person who was very dynamic.
“That’s just who she was,” Williams said.
Wilson was very involved in her faith as well. She was a member of Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport.
“She helped to homeless of her church and was there to help the senior citizen community. She was there to help spread the gospel,” Williams said.
Wilson was known as being a humble woman. “Shonda was so humble that her Pastor of over 10 years stated that he didn’t even know Shonda was Dr. Shonda Wilson until the day of her wake.” Ortiz-Rios said.
Williams recalled how Wilson never talked negatively about anybody. She was always very “alternative” in the way she communicated. She offered an alternate way of looking at things whenever there was an issue or a problem that needed to be fixed. Williams also included, “Shonda had a beautiful smile that lit up. I am honored to have had the opportunity to have known her and to have been in her presence.”
Jeanette Bravo, Campus Associate Dean of Academic Affairs – Campus Operations, expressed her thoughts on a woman’s life cut way too short.
“Although I have been with the college for 30 years, it wasn’t until last year that I became acquainted with Shonda on a more personal level. I had the distinction of working with her on some committees, but most recently on Distance Education. As the campus mentor in DE, she took her role seriously and provided the DE faculty with many excellent ideas for faculty to augment their courses. Periodically she conducted workshops and invited veterans like myself to participate in panel discussions…She maintained a level of integrity in her courses, and was not concerned about being the most popular instructor, but more concerned about teaching her students and taking them to the highest level of learning. She was fun, you could enjoy a great laugh with her, and there was no doubt she loved her family,” Bravo said.
“In summary, she was a lady of integrity and kindness, who loved her family and deeply cared for her students. She lived her short life with religious convictions, and I will miss her for a very long time.” Bravo said. Wilson, single woman, had no family from the New York area.
A memorial service was held for her on Oct. 1 on Long Island and on Oct. 9 in her hometown of Thomasville, Georgia. There will be a memorial held in her honor on Oct. 20 from 11:a.m. to 12:15p.m. in room 126 of the Smithtown Science Building for those who wish to express their feelings and memories on a woman who died too young.