25 years ago, a song titled “Leanna’s Song – I Guess This Is Goodbye,” was composed and performed by Erik Bennett, a friend of Tech student Leanna Piver. At just 20 years old, Leanna Piver had passed away a few days earlier in a car accident as she was driving to cheerleading practice.
Her death was a tremendous loss to the Institute’s community. Numerous emails and messages of support from students were written, many containing stories demonstrating how much Leanna Piver meant to them.
This year, in recognition of the 25th anniversary of her passing and the 50th anniversary of her parents’ wedding the Institute will honor Leanna Piver with a posthumous bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (BA).The process to honor Leanna Piver with this degree began with an email from her father Dave Piver, to Steve McLaughlin, the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.
In an interview with the Technique, McLaughlin explained that Dave Piver wanted to present the degree as an anniversary present to his wife Janet Piver, Leanna Piver’s mother.
McLaughlin continues to explain that a posthumous degree is an honorary degree granted by the university after someone has passed away if their passing meant they were unable to complete their degree. Their awarding is rare, with only about one per year being granted at Tech.
According to McLaughlin, the degree serves to provide recognition for the student and also the family and friends they have left behind. He explained that the Institute wanted to honor the impact Leanna had on the people who knew her. In addition to taking classes, she touched people’s lives. “That is important too,” McLaughlin added.
For students on campus today few would have known or heard of Leanna, but her story can still impact the lives of Jackets. A new athletic department fund and scholarship specifically for cheerleaders was created in her name, known as the Georgia Tech Alexander-Tharpe Fund – Leanna Piver Endowment.
Additionally, the family created the Leanna Piver Scholarship Fund for students in drama and cheerleading at Parkview High School. Her story is a reminder to not get caught up in the stresses of each day, but focus on the people in our lives that we love.
“Hold onto those friendships. Value those friendships. A crazy thing might happen. They might not make it to practice,” McLaughlin said.
In 2024, 25 years after her passing and 50 years after her parents were married, Leanna Piver will be able to finally earn her undergraduate degree.