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"It's like...she's still here"; A&M Central Texas remembers student with an honorary degree

Posted at 6:41 PM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 19:41:32-04

Graduation is a day that many people look forward to, Marla Harris was no different. Tragically she was killed in a motorcycle accident earlier this year, just a few months shy of receiving her Bachelors Degree of Psychology from A&M Central TX.

She was a warrior through and through before her even made it to the campus of A&M Central TX. Marla’s sister, Latoya’s Dingle, says she was a warrior of the mind.

“She was serious about her assignments, if she knew something was due. She made sure she got herself together and her priorities straight,” Dingle said.

Tapping into her fighting spirit early, watching G.I. Jane was the spark Marla’s father Thomas Harris said ignited her desire to serve, and follow in his footsteps.

Mr. Harris said, “She went on to join ROTC in high school and after that she went the National Guard and then went active. So, it made a difference in her because she said this is what I want to do.”

As warrior for her country, her plans for higher education were put on hold, until she made a home here in the Lone Star State.

This warrior never dropped her shield, even in her final hours. President Marc Nigliazzo, PhD said honoring Marla and her commitment to her education, is the least the university could do.

“She worked so hard for it, it was obviously very important to her and to her family. There is no way you can offset her tragic loss, but at least in some way we are able to acknowledge and allow her family to acknowledge what she had achieved here in completing that degree,” Nigliazzo said.

Dingle and Mr. Harris said they miss everything about Marla. Her laugh, her infectious smile, and bold personality. They both find comfort in knowing her warrior spirit lives on.

Harris said, “The thing that the university is putting effort toward that, that's, that's outstanding. It really it really touches you. It’s like, you're almost saying that she's still here.”

The university has sponsored the family and flew them down from South Carolina to attend graduation. The Harris family will be accepting an honorary degree on Marla's behalf at Saturday's graduation.