President Buxton honors Lees-McRae student Jessica Hattabaugh with the President’s Award

August 22, 2014

At the opening Convocation ceremony held on Thursday, August 21, Lees-McRae President Barry M. Buxton honored student Jessica Hattabaugh with the President’s Award for her selfless efforts to save an injured deer she found on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hattabaugh, a native of South Hampton, Mass., is a sophomore studying Wildlife Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Rehabilitation.

At the Convocation ceremony President Buxton shared Hattabaugh’s account of the incident, “My mother and I were driving along the [Blue Ridge] Parkway and I saw an [expectant female] deer curled up next to a drain. I had [my mother] turn the car around so I could take a look. When we got back to the spot where I saw the deer, the deer had fallen into the drain. I saw a trail of blood and knew she had been hit by a car, but I didn’t know how badly she was hurt because she was now trapped in the drain. The first thing I did was take off my sweatshirt and cover [the deer’s] eyes. Three park rangers arrived on the scene. They told me a [police officer] was coming and was most likely just going to shoot the deer then pull the body out. I did not think that was necessary.”

Hattabaugh recruited one of the park rangers to help her and together they worked tirelessly to free the deer from the drain. After many failed attempts, they were able to roll the deer on her side and drag her into the grass. Hattabaugh was careful to keep the deer’s eyes covered with the sweatshirt to help keep her calm and ensure she didn’t try to run away. Hattabaugh checked the deer’s injuries and saw that her knees were scraped and she had a deep laceration on the back of her leg, but there were no broken bones. The park ranger helped her drag the deer into the woods so she could rest.

Hattabaugh’s account continued, “The [police officer] asked me how bad the deer was injured and whether or not he should shoot her. I told him she was very scared and tired from trying to get out of the drain. I went back into the woods and the deer was beginning to get her strength back and trying to stand. I thought she had a good chance of recovering. After she rested for a while, she made it pretty far into the woods and I think she will be okay.”

“In honor of her courage and compassion,” said President Buxton, during the award presentation, “her determination to do the right thing, for rescuing an expectant female deer that had been struck by a car and trapped in a drain along the Blue Ridge Parkway…I hereby award, Jessica Hattabaugh, the President’s Award.”

The award presentation was welcomed by a standing ovation from the crowd of students, faculty, staff and special guests.

For more information on how to help injured wildlife, contact the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at 828.898.2568.

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Jessica Hattabaugh on stage as she listened to President Buxton recount her selfless actions.
Jessica Hattabaugh receiving the President's Award from President Buxton.