Florida brother to accept degree for sister who died

Century Tower at the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida. [Photo courtesy: UF]

A University of Florida student who became paralyzed below the waist and lost vision in one eye from a rare and incurable blood disease died just weeks before graduation. But she still managed to finish her degree, so her brother plans to walk in her place during a graduation ceremony Friday.

Mariel White’s brother, Weston White, will accept his sister’s degree in sports management and journalism while about two dozen family members watch. UF President Kent Fuchs also plans to honor her during the commencement speech, the university said Thursday.

The school originally said White’s mother, Jill Olney, would participate in the ceremony, but the family changed their plans.

White was diagnosed in 2017 with the rare vascular disease while she was a UF sophomore. In January 2018, she suffered four strokes that left her paralyzed from the waste down.

Nevertheless, she always vowed to return to campus and did so in August 2019. She moved into a dormitory designed for students in wheelchairs with her service dog, Lassie, and support from her Phi Mu sorority sisters.

During the past semester, her condition deteriorated, but she was able to complete her degree. White died Dec. 5.

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