Sac State alumna and Black Alumni Chapter founder dies at 56

Jackie Morris-Henderson died in August from metastatic breast cancer.

Kelly Kiernan

Kendra Rivera-Molina

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Sacramento State alumna and founder of Sac State’s Black Alumni Chapter (BAC) Jackie Morris-Henderson died Aug. 26 at 56 due to metastatic breast cancer.

Morris-Henderson was a mentor to many staff, faculty and students at the university. In 2007, she founded Sacramento State’s BAC

“She never wanted anyone to know she was sick,” said Donald Henderson, Morris-Henderson’s husband. “She wanted you to see her the way you always saw her — beautiful smile and someone always willing to help.”

Morris-Henderson graduated from Sacramento State in 1987 with a degree in business administration and in 1992 with a degree in communications studies. 

“It was her personal and professional mission to make sure that scholarships were awarded to deserving students,” said Lisa Woodard-Mink, an executive director at University Advancement, where Morris-Henderson worked as the scholarship fund steward.

According to Woodard-Mink, Morris-Henderson wanted to connect Black alumni to each other.

“She saw a need for Black alumni to remain connected to their alma mater,” Woodard-Mink said. “That was the way she worked. She saw a need or a problem and she fixed it.”

BAC held their first meeting after Morris-Henderson’s death on Monday. At the meeting, alumni, family and colleagues gathered to pay tribute to Morris-Henderson. 

Currently, BAC is developing a scholarship in her name through donations from organizations the chapter has collaborated with. 

Students, including Marcus Jones, a 2017 Sac State alumnus, came to give their respects to those close to her.

“She encouraged me to go further with my education and never let anybody try to take that from you because once you get that degree, that’s yours,” Jones said.

At the meeting, several organizations Morris-Henderson worked with donated funds toward scholarships for Black students. Among the speeches at the event, representatives from different programs explained how they’ve helped Black students on campus regarding academics and social justice. 

One of those organizations was the Admission Support for Academic Persistence program by Cloteal Herron, which was put in place from 1996 to 1997. She hired Morris-Henderson and other Black staff to help defend the admissions process for Black students on campus. 

“It was a time where enrollment was severely suffering in the recruitment and retainment of African-American students,” Herron said.

Herron said that  racism was an obstacle toward success for Black students.

Herron said that there was a time when she worked in admissions where they would not admit a Black male student with a 1.9 GPA.

“They didn’t know he had been to 11 highschools since the 9th grade because his parents were on crack,” Herron said. “He was able to articulate his career goal and his interest in getting a B.A in Business.”

Four years after Herron’s organization helped in getting him admitted, this student graduated with honors, obtaining a bachelor‘s degree and furthering his education toward a master’s degree, Herron said.

Courtesy of Sac State’s Black Alumni Chapter
President Nelsen with Jackie Morris-Henderson at a Black Alumni Chapter Sports Recognition Dinner in 2015.

Sac State President Robert Nelsen recognized Morris-Henderson as a friend and adviser whose efforts helped several students secure scholarships. He said that she was motivated to support Sac State’s campus.

“She pushed to establish a chapter and to create a home and foster a sense of belonging among our Black faculty, students, staff and community members,” Nelsen said. “She cared deeply about the experiences that people had on our campus, and she found ways to support her community and help our students be successful.”