Scholarship idea will help students long after TTU's Brenda Elrod retires

McKenzie Holbrook_Elrod_WynneBrenda Elrod’s friends describe a signature image of her. It’s Brenda, walking hospital halls with an IV in her arm while battling cancer, checking on other patients.

As Elrod retires from Tennessee Tech University’s Financial Aid Office this month after 34 years, many friends and co-workers have catalogued the ways she has served college students with similar compassion.

Sharon King, TTU benefits specialist, says during the 15 years she shared an office with Elrod, she saw the personal interest she demonstrated toward students.

“When Brenda thought of something that would help the students, she wouldn’t rest until she found a way to help,” said King.

Longtime co-worker Kathy Hammons, TTU Eagle Card Office supervisor, says patience is one of Elrod’s virtues.

“She’ll take all the time in the world with a student,” said Hammons. “She doesn’t act rushed, takes extra time, and goes the extra mile.”

King says Elrod has worked diligently to help scholarship applicants find scholarships that match their qualifications, to polish their essays, and to find ways over, around or through obstacles keeping them from succeeding in school.

“In 1990, she thought of starting an employees scholarship fund to help students stay in school,” said King. “After it had gotten off to a good start, she wanted to make sure it stayed around. So she got to work getting it turned into an endowment account.”

Elrod took the personal approach, going face-to-face to ask faculty and staff to pledge a minimum $1 per month through payroll deduction. Hundreds of employees began giving and many continue.

A few years ago, Elrod didn’t let a diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma dampen her giving spirit. After she realized how certain items helped comfort her, she began taking CDs, DVDs, toiletries, blankets and other items to patients receiving chemotherapy — even during her own chemo treatments.

Elrod friendsElrod still takes every opportunity to encourage cancer patients both at Cookeville Regional Medical Center’s Cancer Center and at Vanderbilt Hospital. She speaks at group meetings and continues to pass out gift bags.

"I'm so proud to have had Brenda Elrod on the Enrollment Management Team," said Bobby Hodum, TTU associate vice president for enrollment management and student success. “Financial Aid is tough work, but Brenda has maintained a genuine servant's attitude in helping students and parents for many, many years. Her sweet smile and kind assistance will be greatly missed."

In recognition of Elrod’s spirit and service, the employees scholarship she started years ago will now be called the “Brenda Elrod TTU Student Educational Scholarship.” The scholarship will be awarded each year to a current, full-time student in good standing with a minimum 2.5 GPA – a sophomore, junior, senior or graduate student – who exhibits financial need not being met by other forms of financial assistance. 

TTU employees can give by payroll deduction or increase their payroll deduction by completing and submitting the form at http://www.tntech.edu/files/advancementservices/forms/Givingbypayrolldeduction2013.pdf.

Anyone can make a one-time donation to Elrod’s scholarship online at
https://www.ttualumni.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=479. Or, mail a check to Scholarships, TTU Box 1915, Cookeville, TN 38505.

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