New meal plan scholarship named for “Miss Sandra”

Sandra Patterson, the beloved “Miss Sandra” to scores of University of Georgia students who frequented the dining halls where she worked, will have a meal plan scholarship named in her honor, following a crowdfunding campaign that raised over $25,000.

More than 600 donors contributed $20,000 to the campaign, which ran in December of last year—Patterson retired the month before—and asked donors to celebrate her by giving to support food security at UGA. After the close of the campaign, UGA President Jere W. Morehead added an additional $5,500 from the President’s Venture Fund.

“This is such an honor,” said Patterson. “I’m so proud of what these donors have done, and I am so happy that my name could help people to give back and help other people.”

Initially, campaign donations were to be routed to the Let All The Big Dogs Eat (LATBDE) Meal Plan Scholarship. LATBDE, a donor-supported scholarship directed by UGA Student Affairs in partnership with UGA Dining Services, awards meal plans to multiple UGA students each fall and spring semester as part of UGA’s food scholarship initiative.

But following the campaign’s overwhelming response and Morehead’s contribution, the decision was made to create a stand-alone fund that would simultaneously contribute to the food scholarship initiative by providing additional meal plans for students and honor Patterson’s outsized impact on campus: the Miss Sandra Patterson Meal Plan Scholarship.

Patterson’s UGA career spanned more than 30 years, and she established herself as a campus legend by offering welcome, comfort and, most notably, hugs to students in UGA’s dining halls. Donors to the “Say Thank You To Miss Sandra” campaign were invited to offer personal messages along with their donation, and many took that opportunity to share the deep impact Patterson made on their UGA experience.

“I would trek all the way across campus for lunch just to get a hug from Miss Sandra,” wrote John Bowden, a 2013 graduate. “She always knew how to make a bad or stressful day so much better with love and kindness.”

Even once COVID-19 hampered the personal contact for which she is known, she offered students elbow bumps and kind words from behind a face covering. In October, she greeted graduating students arriving for UGA’s rescheduled spring 2020 commencement ceremony from a safe distance with “virtual hugs.”

That kind of dedication and care was typical of Miss Sandra’s career, who corrects herself when she begins to say, “it was a great job.”

“It wasn’t a job. It was just a second home to go to each day with all my kids there.”

Now, thanks to the scholarship that bears her name, she’ll be able to take care of her kids for years to come.