2002-06-22 / Community

Rockaway Native Receives Alumni Award

Rockaway Native Receives Alumni Award

Rockaway, Queens native and resident Betty Jean Smith, received and Alumni Award from her alma mater, Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus, at the University’s 2002 commencement.

From her earliest years, Betty Jean Smith faced obstacles that even the strongest of adults might be unable to bear. At the age of nine, she was diagnosed with Systematic Lupus Erythematosus. Shortly thereafter, she fell into a seven-month coma, miraculously recovering, only to be told at the age of 11, that she had less than six months to live. Somehow, her unwavering faith and determination helped her to overcome insurmountable odds and mature into a vibrant young adult with a zest for life and a yearning to pursue her academic goals and embrace her religious convictions.

She enrolled at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus in 1977, majoring in psychology. Despite numerous bouts of illness and hospital stays, she graduated with honors nine years later. She then began working for Social Security Administration, where she remains employed today. While holding down a full-time job, she earned an M. Div. from New York Theological Seminary, graduating at the top of her class.

Minister Smith is currently affiliated with the interdenominational, interracial and international Riverside Church in Manhattan, and plans to enroll in a Ph.D. program in education and religion offered jointly by Columbia University’s Teachers College and Union Theological Seminary.

Each year, the Brooklyn Campus Alumni Association honors several outstanding alumni who have been successful and who have helped others at the Campus. Betty Jean Smith serves as a mentor and tutor in the Campus’s Special Educational Services Program, giving back to the program that helped her when she was an undergraduate.

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