The Marquette University community is mourning Jacqueline Walker — a woman many came to know simply as "Miss Jackie." She was the Educational Opportunity Program’s financial aid counselor for more than 20 years.
EOP is an academic, federally funded TRiO program that helps low-income and first-generation students pursue a degree in higher education. It was established in 1969 at the university to make a Marquette education more accessible to "culturally distinct students."
In June 2019, Walker received the Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award. It honors one staff member and one faculty member who demonstrates exemplary leadership and manifests the ideals of diversity, equity and inclusion into practical action. She retired this past March.
For many students, she was more than the financial aid counselor. Some describe her as a mother figure and a home away from home.
After the news of her recent passing, several EOP graduates reflected on her legacy and their time with her:
Shawn Frost, Class of 2016
"Just being around her just made me feel so comfortable with knowing like, man this is the biggest thing in my life at this point and you're a huge part of that. And she never lost a beat," Frost says. "The fact that she was able to have so many individual relationships with all the TRiO students, I ... man, that's incredible."
Dewayne Gage, Class of 2016
"It was always a time where I was in very panic and disbelief mode, that I am not gonna be able to continue my semester. I remember thinking after my third time linking with her, like this relationship is ultimately the reason why I will graduate college. Like, obviously I gotta put in the work, and a lot things gotta happen, but that relationship of somebody having your back like that," Gage says.
Diedre Hasan, Class of 2018
"She was always there to listen and hug you. A lot of people don't have that. Like, I didn't not necessarily have that, but she just was this tiny woman who made you feel like you was getting hugged by a bear," Hasan says. "I think she leaves behind a legacy of love. She loved on us so hard."
Tatianna and Josh Joseph, Class of 2005 and 2004
"EOP changed my life — there's no other way to say it," Josh Joseph says.
Tatianna Joseph adds, "That's what stays with me. It was a great modeling very early on for me, especially in my own schooling, attending schools where teachers were not that personable or establishing caring relationships with students. And then you get to this place and it's like, I'm home."
Jazmynn Montanez, Class of 2011
"I think my favorite story of Miss Jackie was the spring semester of 2010; myself and two other EOP students got into the program to go study abroad in Spain. It was just a lot of firsts for me, and I'm sitting down with Miss Jackie, and I got so overwhelmed I was like, 'You know what Miss Jackie, I'm just gonna tell them I don't wanna go anymore.' And she dropped her pen, and she looked at me like, 'Don't you ever in you life doubt yourself, ever again,' " Montanez.
Breone Sanders, Class of 2012
"I would say the legacy she leaves in EOP is the example of her courage, her strength, her service, and integrity. I just hope that Marquette and EOP continue her work and take heed of her example. Which was the belief that first-generation and low-income students deserve a place at Marquette," Sanders says.
Editor's note: We referenced the Equal Opportunity Program, but it is actually the Educational Opportunity Program. It has been updated.
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