Bronwyn Sneed was fresh from college when she started a new job in the financial aid office at Southern Arkansas University in January 1985. On her very first day of work, the business administration major was handed a financial aid application.
“In those days, they were the sheets with ‘bubbles’ that you filled in,” Sneed said, thinking back to the once-paper-intensive process. “I just remember looking at it and didn’t know how I was going to do this.”
Sneed said that then-director Dorothy Duncan and her assistant Dorothy Bennett took her in, taught her the processes and made her feel right at home.
Twenty eight years later the former secretary now holds the post held by her mentor. Sneed is director of financial aid.
Since 2004, Sneed has fought a personal battle – against cancer. But even while going through rigorous medical treatments, those who needed her would find a smiling Sneed at her desk.
“It was hard, but work was really my saving grace,” she said. “I wasn’t at home wallowing in pity, and I was surrounded by people who were promising to help me through this. They brought food, support, anything I could possibly need. They were there. SAU isn’t just an employer. It is a family.”
Sneed said there were days during her taxing medical treatments that she had to force herself to come to work.
“There are some days that I still think ‘I can’t do this,’ then a student or former student walks in and tells me how they couldn’t have made it through without financial aid,” she said. “Just when you question, someone says something and makes it all feel worthwhile.
Defining Sneed as someone “you can rely on and trust,” SAU President Dr. David Rankin awarded her the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce Employee of the Year Award on March 29 in recognition of her unfaltering dedication.
He called her “the face of financial aid at Southern Arkansas University” and spoke of her outstanding reputation.
“She’s unbelievable,” he said. “There has never been a ripple in her work, quality or quantity, her demeanor, her personality or appearance,” Rankin said.
Sneed and employees in the department work exhaustive hours, especially during peak times of university enrollment. It is not uncommon for the parking lot outside of Nelson Hall to be dotted with financial aid employee cars into the wee hours of the morning. It can be a tiring job where a “thank you” can be rare, but frustrations are freely verbalized.
“The impact she has made on the college career of thousands of students can never really be measured,” Rankin said. “She has talked face to face with many parents and students with the same grace and charm all through the years.”