Sue Gavin, former director of the office of sponsored programs, passed away unexpectedly at Marion General Hospital on Dec. 19.
Gavin worked as the director of the office of sponsored programs for 11 years, where she led research teams and helped push students to achieve their goals. Gavin, who had a pursuing spirit herself, finished her Ph.D. shortly before she died.
Michele Bragg, director of financial operations, worked closely with Gavin in the Office of Sponsored Programs and admired her interest in students’ lives and her constant efforts to bring students together.
“Sue loved collaboration and bringing people together,” Bragg said. “She worked quite frequently on trying to bring our faculty in collaboration with other campuses so we could all grow together and learn.”
Donna Downs, department co-chair and associate professor of communication, said Gavin had a heart for engaging students in undergraduate research, pushing them to think critically.
Gavin encouraged collaborations between students and professors and helped them work toward their end research goal, Downs said. Gavin also encouraged Downs personally.
“Sue was a friend and encourager,” Downs said. “She worked with me in regard to preparing my students to do solid research and helped faculty across the university find funding for research.”
In addition to her helpful spirit, Downs noted that Gavin was full of ideas and helped others envision what could be. Downs said Gavin wanted people to grow in knowledge and wisdom and wanted to help pave the way toward academic success.
Dr. Stephen Phillips, director of the center for ethics, also worked alongside Gavin often. He said she was someone who was very good at organizing things and helping people out.
Phillips did not know Gavin until his office was moved into the same space as hers in 2013. He said that while their tasks were quite different, it was impossible to work in the same place as Gavin without being her friend.
“She was the kind of person that made connections with everybody she was around,” Phillips said. “We would talk about our families and what we were doing at Taylor.”
Bragg also noted that even if a task was completely unrelated to research, Gavin would always work to help people out.
To Bragg, Gavin was a mentor and source of encouragement. Gavin worked alongside Bragg in the office and challenged her to pursue her education.
“I knew nothing about the office of sponsored programs, so we were a team on campus and she constantly helped me out,” Bragg said. “She encouraged me to go back and get my graduate work.”
Gavin also gave Bragg the idea to put a framed picture of the number 24 on her desk, representing the number of feet of Jesus’ disciples he washed, even knowing one would betray him. Bragg said this is the way Gavin wanted to show love to people.
Bragg said Gavin was a glass-half-full person who always sought the best in people. She said Gavin also loved to listen to students’ stories and help them out along the way.
Phillips agreed, stating that she constantly offered encouragement to people.
“(Gavin) wouldn’t just tell (students) they could do things well, but she would actually come alongside them and help them,” Phillips said.
Phillips also admired her passion for learning. Although Gavin had completed her coursework for her Ph.D., she had never actually received the degree. Phillips said a ceremony is in the works to honor her posthumously.
Phillips, Bragg and Downs all said Gavin will be dearly missed by many in the Taylor community.
“I hope (Gavin) realizes that the community loved her as much as she loved them,” Bragg said. “She was such a light and a blessing and I hope everyone will continue to pray for her family.”
Provost Michael Hammond mentioned in a statement for Taylor that Gavin was a bright light of encouragement for many, and that her dedication to Christ-centered scholarship enhanced Taylor’s academic mission.
Gavin was involved in book clubs and prayer groups during her time at Taylor. She lived in Marion and attended College Wesleyan Church. Here, she collaborated with Cathy Weatherspoon, executive director of Thriving Families, Thriving Grant County, a local collective impact. Together, they worked to obtain grants for the Community Foundation of Grant County.