Oct. 17, 2007
By Vickie Long
There are few who are more deserving of the title of Tiger Brotherhood Mother-of-the-Year than Sarah Little. Little, or “Mama Sarah” as she is collectively and affectionately known around campus, loves her family and genuinely cares about all students, especially the students who attend Clemson University.
Sarah Little is the biological mother of her own three children. However, she serves as a mother-figure for all of the Clemson students who are away from their own mothers. There is nothing she enjoys more.
A resident of nearby Seneca, Little grew up a Tiger fan and will remain one for life. In her youth, she liked to dance, sew, and cook.
One of those pastimes grew into a career. She has worked with the Clemson University Dining Services for 33 years. For all but four-and-a-half years, she has spent her time running the athletic dining room, where she would prepare food for student-athletes.
Little has three children and six grandchildren, all of whom she is very proud of. When asked what some of her favorite stories from their childhoods are, she thought for awhile and replied, “all of them.”
“It was a joy,” she said on raising her children. “You have to be a parent to understand.”
She feels that bringing up her own children helped her find the intention to love other kids as well.
This special gift gives her a great feeling. Her children now live in Kentucky and Seneca, and they work at Ford Corporation and also here in food service at Clemson, respectively, while her grandchildren are all in school. With her own children grown, she has focused on being a mother-figure for all of the students, past, present, and future, of Clemson University.
Working for the dining services has allowed Little to interact directly with the Clemson students. She loves to offer advice and effectively be a parent to all students who are leaving their own parents for the first time.
“If you’d like, I’ll be your `mama’ away from home,” she smiled.
Most of the students who Little comes in contact with at Clemson take her up on her offer and end up calling her “Mama Sarah.” She takes her role very seriously and loves to be a part of these students’ lives. If she believes that these students need direction in their lives, she does not hesitate to be the person who offers to assist with their problems.
“If you are alone, you need someone to give you guidance and help keep you away from trouble,” she said.
Little thoroughly loves being that someone. Not only does she enjoy giving helpful advice to the students who seek it, she is not afraid to tell kids when they are being bad. She wants them to stay on the right road, so boys and girls grow up to be men and ladies.
Little also likes the daily conversations she has with the students. She enjoys hearing about classes and labs, and the students in turn ask her about her life. These daily conversations can lead to meaningful and supportive relationships between her and the students. Basically, she is the mother-figure to all students she meets.
Her advice on how to help students is, “to share a little love. The greatest part about it is seeing them when they return to Clemson with their own kids. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.”
She should know. Little has seen generations and families come through Clemson, and has treated them all with the same caring and nurturing attitude to help them grow up and become better people in the world.
“Maintaining a relationship with the students is very important, especially teaching them how to respect themselves and to respect others,” Little explained. “You have to have self-value.”
Clearly, “Mama Sarah” knows what she is talking about in dealing with raising kids to become admirable adults.
Because Little has spent most of her career at Clemson working with student-athletes, she became more of a fan of Tiger athletics. She began as a baseball fan, and then she added a love for basketball and football. As she worked with and helped more and more student-athletes who played different sports, she started to enjoy all of the different sports her new “children” participated in.
These student-athletes influenced Little in many ways, but she maintains that she has influenced these athletes as well. She knows it “in her heart” because some of the former student-athletes have come back to visit her at Clemson with their kids who will be attending the university in the future.
“There’s `Mama!’ Now, you train him like you trained me,” many of them have said to Little.
She has had the joy of seeing the direct outcome and influence that her advice and guidance had on the people she gave it to.
Illustrating this point, Barbara Kennedy-Dixon, a former All-American of the women’s basketball team and current associate athletic director at Clemson, had this to say. “`Mama Sarah’ has always been a mom to everyone she meets. She has always been the same loving, caring, nurturing person.
“There is no one like her that I have met on this campus. I’ve had nothing but love for this lady from day-one. She took care of me and she really fulfilled the term `Mama Sarah.’ She is so deserving of this award. It is long overdue. She is a wonderful mother that could never be replaced.”
When asked how she feels about being named Tiger Brotherhood Mother-of-the-Year, Little replied, “Fantastic!”
Sarah’s advice for the future is to keep talking to the students to keep them on the right track.
“Life is worse and more dangerous than it was 20 years ago,” she admitted.
Her goal is to see all children choose the right path and to stay out of trouble. By helping students understand, she believes that they will be on the right road towards becoming successful adults in the future.
“Stay away from bad trouble and go for your goals,” she added. “I won’t be around in 30 more years, so don’t ever forget me. And always remember, there’s someone out there who really cares.”
Vickie Long, a sophomore from Bellbrook, OH, is a student assistant in theClemson Sports Information Office.
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