NORTHAMPTON — Two Smith College graduate students are working with its School of Social Work to honor a classmate who died before she was able to complete her master’s program.
Courtney Ann Carton of Winchendon, who was working toward a degree in social work, died in June from complications of Type 1 insulin-dependent juvenile diabetes.
Her friends Amee Catalano, 26, and Rachel Rodriguez, 25, petitioned the college earlier this week to award Carton the degree. As of Thursday, the petition had 487 signatures from students, alumni, family and friends.
However, Catalano and Rodriguez are now meeting with the school to think of other ways to honor Carton at the Aug. 18 commencement ceremony, because Smith College lacks a posthumous degree policy, an established process for awarding degrees to students after they’ve died.
“We really just want to support the family at this point,” Catalano said. “I would like to see her receive an honorary degree or certificate, but we want to meet with the school to find out what is and what isn’t possible.”
Carton was in her final year in the graduate program and had completed two-thirds of the requirements for her degree.
“Courtney was an excellent student,” Catalano said. “She really excelled.”
The social work master’s program at Smith College is very challenging, Rodriguez said. The program requires students to take classes during the summer and complete 30 hours of fieldwork each week during the school year.
“Courtney went through all of that with us,” Rodriguez said. “She died very suddenly before she could complete it, so we want to acknowledge all the accomplishments she made so far.”
Carton wanted to work with emotionally abused children, work that she began during an internship at YOU Inc. in Gardner.
“She was an excellent social worker, and people feel that she needs to be recognized,” Rodriguez said.
Catalano and Rodriguez have met with dean Marianne Yoshioka, who told them that Smith…