Texas A&M University senior applied math major Clara Wietbrock ’20 is one of three Aggies selected to receive the Texas A&M Faculty Senate’s 2020 Aggie Spirit Award.
Established in 2001, the annual award recognizes students who display outstanding courage and determination in the face of adversity while attending Texas A&M University.
Wietbrock was honored along with fellow 2020 recipients Taylor Sutton and Ty Sutton from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as part of the Faculty Senate’s most recent monthly meeting, held April 13 via Zoom. The students were introduced by their respective nominators, then celebrated for their achievements and demonstrations of Aggie Spirit, courage and determination. Each will receive a framed certificate signed by Andrew Klein, 2019-20 Speaker of the Faculty Senate and EOG Teaching Professor in the College of Geosciences, along with a cash award.
“Clara is an amazing young woman who has demonstrated uncommon courage and strength during her time at Texas A&M University and exemplifies everything the Aggie Spirit Award was designed to recognize,” said her nominator Heather Ramsey, an instructional assistant professor of mathematics and lead undergraduate advisor in the Texas A&M Department of Mathematics.
Wietbrock completed high school in Florida and spent three semesters at State College of Florida before transferring in fall 20016 to Texas A&M, which she fell in love with as a child, thanks in part to an older cousin who took Wietbrock to Aggie basketball games during her multiple visits to Aggieland. While the move initially meant leaving her parents behind in Florida, Wietbrock, an only child, got the good news just before she was set to depart for College Station that her father had landed a job in Texas.
After first attending T-Camp to immerse herself in all things Aggie culture, Wietbrock then thrived as an applied math major, immersing herself in her coursework, Texas A&M traditions, sporting events and a variety of extracurricular activities. Midway through her second semester in Aggieland, however, her elation gave way to sadness when her mom unexpectedly passed away from complications following an otherwise routine surgery on April 21, 2017 — the same day commemorating one of her Aggie family’s most sacred traditions, Muster. Eleven months later, Wietbrock also lost her dad, who had a heart attack during their March 16, 2018, car ride back from a spring break trip to California. Wietbrock was driving, and despite her valiant CPR efforts prior to the paramedics’ arrival on scene, they were unable to save him.
“It goes without saying that the loss of a parent is devastating, but to lose both parents in such unexpected, tragic ways within less than one year is unthinkably heartbreaking,” Ramsey said. “Not only that, because Clara is an only child and both sets of her grandparents had passed away before her parents’ deaths, the difficult task of handling her parents’ estate — cleaning out their house, taking care of financial obligations, etc. — fell solely on Clara. This is not the typical life experience of a student in her early 20s — none of this is — but Clara is not the typical student. She is a survivor.”
Ramsey said Wietbrock never gave up on her dream, finding the strength during her mother’s hospitalization in spring 2017 to complete all her classes and the courage after her dad’s death in spring 2018 to serve as the executor of her parents’ estate that summer, all while continuing to make progress toward her degree. In spring 2020, she will mark another milestone, receiving her bachelor of science in applied mathematics with an emphasis in actuarial science, albeit by mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than during a traditional spring commencement ceremony in Reed Arena.
“If you were to meet Clara today, you probably would have no idea the burden she carries and the emotional storms she has weathered,” Ramsey said. “Thanks to the support of her family, friends, counselors, her church and her Aggie family, Clara’s dream of graduating from Texas A&M University will soon be realized. For me, she is the epitome of strength and grace, and it is an honor to know her and to serve as her academic advisor.”