University of West Alabama mourns loss of beloved student - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

University of West Alabama mourns loss of beloved student

Libby Hankins, Homecoming Queen 2013 (Source: University of West Alabama) Libby Hankins, Homecoming Queen 2013 (Source: University of West Alabama)
Libby Hankins cheers on her team at UWA. (Source: University of West Alabama) Libby Hankins cheers on her team at UWA. (Source: University of West Alabama)
Libby Hankins relaxes with the cheerleading team. (Source: University of West Alabama) Libby Hankins relaxes with the cheerleading team. (Source: University of West Alabama)
LIVINGSTON, AL (WSFA) -

The University of West Alabama lost a beloved student a few days ago, and the campus is feeling the loss.

The loss of 23-year-old Libby Hankins has put a clearer focus on life for this campus of 1,800.  A flag is at half staff, and there is a sense that something is missing, the void of a departed soul.

Libby died last Friday at Duke University Hospital in North Carolina. One year ago, Libby received a double lung transplant after battling cystic fibrosis since she was two years old. Students were too grief-stricken to talk about Libby, but Libba McClendon spoke out.

"She was definitely more than just a student here," McClendon said.

McClendon is the school's head cheerleading coach. She remembers Libby, who more than conquered life. Libby Hankins simply refused to allow her illness to get the best of her and her zest for living.

"You could put her in any situation and she could roll with the punches," McClendon said.

"She wasn't someone with CF that was a student. She was a student with CF and that didn't hold her back," said Jason Gardner, head of Student Services at the University of West Alabama.

Even when Libby didn't feel well, she was elected homecoming queen, made excellent grades, joined a sorority and met the physical demands of being a cheerleader.

"She was a flyer, and so she was fantastic in the air and put her on top of every pyramid and every stunt," McClendon said.

Libby was doing quite well until a few months ago when she contracted a virus. At that point, her body began to reject her new lungs.

Libby was two months short of graduating with a degree in special education. McClendon and Gardner say they are convinced beyond any doubt Libby graduated to a higher plane and more alive than ever.

Libby clearly left an indelible mark on her time at the University of West Alabama. The following is a statement from Dr. Jodi Winship who was Hankins' academic adviser:

"Libby's influence on humanity is immense and will continue to be felt for generations. Cystic Fibrosis is not what made Libby special. Libby was special because she was kindness; friendship; perseverance; joy; optimism; faithfulness; enthusiasm; strength; creativity; humor; determination; compassion; sincerity; courage; and bravery all rolled into a precious little package with an infectious smile. The UWA family is very proud and thankful to have been part of Libby's legacy."

Throughout her life, Libby endured more than 20 surgeries. Libby's funeral is Wednesday at Gordo High School, which is her hometown.

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