Friends, family, colleagues and the Bradley community remembered the life of Dr. Christina McDaniel at a memorial on campus, organized by the education department on Sept. 21.
McDaniel passed on Sept. 2 from carcinosarcoma, a mixture of skin and bone tissue cancer, a year after her initial diagnosis.
The memorial on campus was attended by her mother, her husband Dr. Chris McDaniel and her daughters Morgan and Megan McDaniel. Along with her family, students and coworkers who had known her also attended, some of them sharing stories of how McDaniel was less a colleague and more of a friend.
“Memorials are really there to help support the family,” Dr. Cecile Arquette said. “Truly and honestly, one of the things we talked about tonight that was very important is how she touched the lives of so many people. [Her] students were an extension of her family.”
Some of the students who spoke stated that McDaniel was the difference between them dropping out or failing their classes and finding their path in education. Others said that she was the person to turn to for a good conversation and support.
One student had even said that after finding out the news of her passing, went to place candles at her office door. Another saw a penny on the floor, believing it was a message from McDaniel.
Dr. Chris McDaniel said that he’s familiar with the students and faculty that spoke at the memorial. He joked with everyone attending that she would go “on and on” about all the people she met at the end of the day.
“She influenced so many people, but to stand here and hear it … reinforces what she accomplished in her time here,” McDaniel said. “[She] changed people’s lives, from students to staff to faculty. I’m extremely proud of her.”
It was revealed that McDaniel had been trying to teach until the last moment. Her husband said that it had to take some convincing for her to put down the laptop and cancel her class the week of her passing.
“Till the very end, she was concerned about [her students],” Arquette said. “She was still trying to teach online, and that was absolutely the Christina I knew.”
For her husband, it’s because of her selfless belief that just one interaction could change a student’s life.
“Everyone had potential [to her]; it just had to be drawn out sometimes,” McDaniel said. “[She believed] that if you’re nice to people and you care about people, then you could get that potential out, and that’s what she did.”
Her daughter Megan, a freshman with a STEM education major, was familiar with the people her mother met as well.
“It was very nice to hear all the nice things people had to say about her,” Megan said. “I’ve always heard about how people — my dad and her coworkers — talk about how she impacted students, but hearing it from students first hand was really cool.”
Megan remembers her mother beyond her educational involvement. McDaniel hiked with her husband in their free time, was involved in her church’s choir and had a headstrong personality.
While Dr. Christina McDaniel may no longer be on campus, loved ones are keeping the memories of her.
“Take those good things we remember about that person, make it a part of our lives and go on with our lives and do those good things that person did for us and others,” Arquette said. “It’s kind of a legacy, and it’s a way that we can truly connect with those people and in a sense, they can go on living through us as well.”