~by Jackie Hawkins, soror and close friend
Geri is/was such an angel who came into my life in the form of a Soror, a sister of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. in the summer of 1989.
Over the course of her service with AKA., Geri gained a reputation for being caring, compassionate, funny, tough, solution-oriented, no-nonsense and straight-talking. As I tried to think of all the things she was, I found it easier to encapsulate, what My Geri wasn’t, what I like to call
The Geri Principles
- My Geri wasn’t afraid to look to others for help, nor would she withhold assistance from anyone in need
- My Geri wasn’t one to shy away from letting people know how valuable they are
- My Geri would not back down from challenges nor would she compare herself to others
- My Geri wasn’t one to measure her own self-worth by other people’s opinions
- And most importantly, My Geri would never allow herself to get all wrapped up in anger or resentment
This remarkable woman was willing to work from day one. Through the years, she participated in numerous community services projects including, Coats for Kids, American Cancer Society Relay for Life, Blue Santa, Stop the Hunger Project, American Heart Association “Go Red” Award program, AKA 1908 Playground Project, Austin and Pflugerville Food Banks volunteerism, hostessing for the Social Media and Human Trafficking mini-conference, Travis County Volunteer Deputy Registrar and CASA.
Education and Literacy
Geri was a strong believer in education, even if it means blazing new trails. Geri was the first African American nursing student and graduate from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio.
Geri and I have shared the leadership of the program known as Project GREEN – personally shopping for all needed school supplies and backpacks for up to 600 children at Oaksprings Elementary School in East Austin and Texas Preparatory School in Northeast Austin EACH YEAR beginning in 2008.
Other works of Geri included serving as a mentor to undergraduates and helping graduate advisors in any way possible. She was supportive of both Huston-Tillotson and the University of Texas undergrad sorors. One mentee in particular, Jennifer Ecke, previously a nursing student at the University of Texas, is now a Registered Nurse in Houston – and still cherishes and uses her pink stethoscope that was a gift from Soror Geri.
Although she retired from Seton Medical Center in Austin after working over 4 decades as a Registered Nurse, she never stopped passionately caring for others who were sick, recovering or hurting, dispensing invaluable medical advice. As the years passed, she continued to use her professional gifts to counsel sorors on health issues and always ready to assist in a medical emergency. Stories persist about her using her position and expertise to intervene with the medical bureaucracy when a soror was hospitalized or directing a soror on how to get on the lung transplant waiting list.
Geri also became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in Travis County. As a trained advocate, Geri championed for the best interests of children as they navigated the challenging journey through the child welfare system.
The Austin chapter is part of the South Central Region, a large region comprised of Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana. In the Spring of 2013, just about a year shy of her silver anniversary with AKA, Geraldine Stewart was selected as the recipient of the South Central Region’s Julia Brogdon Purnell Humanitarian Award.
Her ability to motivate and inspire others, while fostering cooperation with her straight-talk, made her the obvious choice. Fittingly, Geri had the honor of being the last soror to have the award personally presented by its namesake, the 16th National President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Julia Brogdon Purnell who passed away at the age of 97 on October 21. 2013.
To say that she was genuinely loved, appreciated, treasured, and respected doesn’t begin to express our feelings for our Geri.