It was a quiet Tuesday morning. Office of Indigenous Student Success (OISS) staff had convened for an all-day retreat at the Native American Cultural Center when they were interrupted by a dozen students, staff and media cheering and waving pom-poms as they paraded into the meeting hall.
“We’re looking for Sharon Singer Doctor,” announced Michelle Gardner, director of Leadership and Engagement, after the chanting and cheers had quieted. Doctor, who sat amongst her colleagues in the meeting, timidly raised her hand. “You have been selected as this year’s Homecoming Dedicatee!”
The crowd went wild as Doctor, the director of Student Life Experience for Indigenous Student Success, tried to fight back tears.
The tradition dates back to 1936. Leaders of student organizations from across campus select an NAU faculty or staff member who has demonstrated exceptional service over more than 10 years and whose unwavered support of the university and students has greatly impacted the Lumberjack community.
The dedicatee participates in a number of events throughout the week of Homecoming festivities, starting with a banquet held in their honor, serving as a judge in the annual Chili Cookoff and riding on a float in the Homecoming Parade. Register to attend the Oct. 24 Dedicatee Luncheon online.
“I am honored and humbled,” Doctor said, wiping tears as Gardner handed her a dedicatee button. “This is a group effort, and I would not be where I am today without the support of my colleagues. It is my passion to work with students, and I am just so happy to know our office is making a difference in their lives over so many years.”
Her colleagues who were in the meeting showered her with hugs and took turns sharing sentiments of appreciation for her more than 29 years of service to NAU.
“She is the auntie and the sister, making things better quietly. She is the wind beneath the students’ wings. She has and will always be a leader to us,” said Ann Marie Chischilly, vice president for Native American Initiatives. “They have chosen the most perfect person for this honor.”
As a Navajo woman, Doctor is Bitterwater (maternal), born for the Edgewater clan (paternal), whose maternal grandfather’s clan is Towering House and paternal grandfather’s clan is Manygoat. She is a three-time NAU alumna, having earned a master’s degree in counseling and bachelor’s degrees in general studies and business management. Over the course of nearly three decades, she has worked in several departments on campus, including in the Upward Bound TRIO Program, The W. A. Franke College of Business Center for American Indian Economic Development and now OISS, where she develops, promotes and implements an array of educational, academic, cultural, social and financial programs and services to improve and enhance the university environment and support networks for Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students.
This is Gardner’s third year organizing the dedicatee tapping, and it remains her favorite part of Homecoming.
“This tradition gives us the opportunity to celebrate all this person has contributed to NAU over the years. It always makes me emotional to bestow this honor on someone so deserving.”