Obituary: Sandra Damewood Worthen
March 12, 1937 – February 13, 2022
Sandra Damewood Worthen passed away on Sunday, February 13, 2022 at IU Ball Memorial Hospital. She was born March 12, 1937 in Washington, DC when it was still a small town, the first daughter of Gladys and Talbert Damewood,
Sandra graduated from Calvin Coolidge High School in January 1955, where she was President of the Student Council.
She earned a B.A. from American University in Political Science in 1958. Active in student life and member of Phi Mu sorority, she was also selected for Mortar Board. In 1959 while completing her Master’s Degree in Government and Public Administration she served as the Director of a Freshman Women’s Residence Hall. In 1960 she married John Worthen who had joined the University as Director of Housing.
Following college Sandra was employed at the Library of Congress, Legislative Reference Service from 1958 to 1961 as a social science analyst.
In 1961 they moved to Boston and Sandra took courses in the Harvard Master of Arts in Teaching program. Then she taught eighth grade social studies in Lexington, MA for two years helping support John who was studying for his doctorate.
In 1963 John accepted a position at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware. Sandra taught high school for three years and then decided to run for the Delaware House of Representatives. It was 1972, the first time Joe Biden ran for the US Senate. Both were on the same ballot; both won. She served six years as a Democrat and then the Republican Governor, Pete DuPont, asked her to serve as Special Assistant for Education and lead the desegregation of schools in the county.
Sandra was adamant that they become a family and they adopted two wonderful children, Samantha in 1966 and Bradley in 1969.
In 1979 John was named President of Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Sandra became part of the leadership team as First Lady of the University. In 1984 John was appointed President of Ball State University. Sandra’s role as a team member included planning and organizing dinners and receptions to recognize and entertain students, faculty, Alumni, legislators and state officials. She also brought together and encouraged faculty women and wives of male faculty. She was active in AAUW, the BSU Women’s Club, the Conversation Club, Muncie Art Students League and the Art Alliance. She loved participating in Ball State evens and in the life of the community.
Sandra was skillful in communicating with people with different points of view and experiences. Her ability to remember names was remarkable.
Her Mother developed Alzheimer’s disease and this prompted Sandra to complete a Master’s Degree in Gerontology at Ball State and later found Daystar, a respite program for the memory impaired. She continued to be active at the state level on the Indiana State Alzheimer’s Task Force and the Indiana Commission on Aging.
Locally she was pleased to be recognized with several awards, including the President’s Medal of Distinction, Ball State University, 2001; the Kirkpatrick Award for Service, 1996; and the Perham Indiana Women of Achievement Award, 2001. In 2000, the BSU Women’s Club established a named scholarship for Sandra. This was especially gratifying as the scholarship is awarded annually to a non-traditional student.
Sandra’s faith was unswerving. She was an active member of First Presbyterian Church and served as a deacon and elder.
She loved learning and enjoyed reading and talking with friends and travel. She and John made many domestic and international trips, some with their children and several after retirement. Sandra always compiled a book of photos and a diary. They retired in 2000 and for 15 years spent three months in the summer hiking and three months in the winter skiing and snowshoeing in Steamboat Springs, CO.
She is survived by her husband, John, daughter, Samantha (of Atlanta) son, Bradley (wife Angela) Grandson Andrew (all of Steamboat Springs, CO) and sister, Diana (of Muncie).
A memorial service will be held at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made to First Presbyterian Church, or the Ball State University Foundation.
The Meeks Mortuary and Crematory, Washington Street Chapel is in charge of arrangements and online condolences may be directed to the family at https://www.meeksmortuary.com
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