Roanoke remembers MaDee Boxler

Jessica Swanson Spirit Award winner

MaDee Boxler '09 faced more challenges than the typical college senior. For nearly two years, the criminal justice and psychology major struggled against Hodgkin's lymphoma. In spite of many difficult rounds of cancer treatments, Boxler remained focused on her classes, graduating with a double major this past December. On February 16, she succumbed to her disease.

Boxler was such an inspiration to students and faculty alike that she was awarded the Jessica Swanson Spirit Award last fall. "It's not as if she was simply doing the minimum amount required," says Dr. Todd Peppers, associate professor of public affairs. "She was both battling a serious illness and pushing herself to succeed in her classes and coursework."

That tenaciousness reflected the spirit of Jessica Swanson '06, whose extraordinary achievements inspired a committee of faculty members to create the award that bears her name. Swanson graduated magna cum laude from Roanoke with a business administration degree and went on to earn her MBA from Virginia Tech in 2008-all in spite of a rare and progressive muscular disorder that has paralyzed her.

Peppers and other Roanoke faculty and staff members traveled to Staunton on October 24, 2009, to visit Boxler at a surprise birthday party and to present the award. Courtney Penn, special assistant to President Mike Maxey, played a video from the president, who was unable to attend, in which Maxey congratulated Boxler. Penn then presented the award citation and an engraved Jefferson cup to her.

Maxey says, "MaDee inspired us in the same ways that Jessica did. MaDee touched so many lives here. We were all impressed with her perseverance and her gracious, giving spirit. We will miss and remember her example for living."

"I cannot think of a student who better personified the spirit of this award," says Peppers. "She was an inspiration...having known her makes me want to be a more effective teacher."

Boxler was a member of the Chi Omega sorority. She also was a member of St. James Lutheran church in Fishersville and attended Community Fellowship of the Nazarene Church in Waynesboro.

She is survived by her parents, Thomas R. Boxler, Jr., of Waynesboro and Tamara R. Talley, of Staunton; a sister and brother-in-law, Abby and Jeff Arey, of Staunton, and a large extended family.

Memorial gifts may be made to the MaDee Boxler Cancer Assistance Fund at Roanoke College, 221 College Lane, Salem, VA 24153.


Released: February 18, 2010
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