October 17, 2022

Biomedical Engineering’s Sandra May receives 2022 Community Spirit Award

For as long as she can remember, Sandra May, a graduate programs administrative assistant in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, has been actively involved in her community.

May’s volunteer experience is wide-ranging and has included roles as a big sister in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, a youth group leader and a lifetime member of the Beta Chapter of Kappa Kappa Sigma Sorority. She attributes her lifelong passion for service to the role models she had as a child.

“I can look back to my parents,” May says. “As I was growing up, they were very active in their church and big supporters of Relay for Life, and they’re still involved in their community today. My grandmother also was a very giving person. Well into her 70s, I would see her helping neighbors with cleaning or painting and helping the older people in the community, not even realizing she was one of them.”

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May recently received the 2022 Community Spirit Award from the Management and Professional Staff Advisory Committee (MaPSAC) and the Campus Support Staff Advisory Committee (CSSAC). Launched in 2011, the annual award recognizes a Purdue staff member who sets a high standard for service, encourages a sustained commitment to civic participation and inspires others to make service a central part of their lives. 

Bill Bell, vice president of human resources, presented the award to May on Oct. 11 during a joint meeting of the two committees.

Based in Chalmers, Indiana, Kappa Kappa Sigma is a 101-year-old philanthropic sorority that raises funds throughout the year to help support food pantries, area schools’ backpack programs, scholarships and other local causes. The organization also donates to larger nonprofits like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Special Olympics Indiana.

May has held several roles during her 27 years as a Kappa Kappa Sigma member, including president, vice president, secretary, advisory board member, historian, social editor and a 20-year stint as the Easter Bunny at Brookston’s annual Easter egg hunt. Although she has worn many hats within the organization, May is most proud of the four years she managed and organized its largest fundraiser, the White County 4-H Fair food stand. During her first term as chair of the committee, food stand profits increased by more than $2,000 from the previous year.

“It’s quite an undertaking and quite stressful because you manage every penny, probably even more than your own money because you want it to be successful,” May says. “It’s one week, and you have all the things you can’t control, so I guess I just feel like that was an accomplishment from all the organizing, planning, ordering and managing the stand for a week. It’s like you’re a short-order cook, a waitress, a restaurateur — and you’re none of these things — but you are for a week.”

There are parallels between May’s responsibilities as a sorority member and her position at Purdue. Student comments submitted by May’s nominator and co-worker Tammy Siemers underscore her unwavering dedication to serving the campus community.

“It is well-known among students that Sandy has an open door to all questions and concerns about graduate student life in the department, and she is often the first stop for students in search of answers or advice,” one of the students wrote. “Her care for students above and beyond her administrative duties is clear, and she has a significant impact on the learning and working environment for graduate students in BME at all stages.”

Similar to her parents and grandmother, May plans to remain engaged in her community for years to come.

“I love all the ladies in the group, and we’re friends beyond being in a sorority,” May says. “I’ve made lifelong friendships, and it’s just been a joy to be a part of, and that’s why I continue to be active — because of the women who are also committed to helping others and their community.”

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