Wanda Hawkins Burrell was born to Bill and Rosemary Hawkins on July 17, 1950 in Camden, Arkansas. She was the youngest of four children: Willie Charles, Roselyn and La Verne. Bearing a strong resemblance to Bill, she was the apple of her daddy’s eye. He affectionately called her “Puddin’”. Even as child, she was an “old soul”. She gravitated toward seniors and spent a lot of time visiting their homes and talking with them for hours on end. This later served her well as she became the unofficial family historian, researching genealogy and connecting her family tree long before the existence of sites like Ancestry.com.
After her sisters went off to Dallas for college, Wanda sought to forge her own path and opted to head to Nashville to attend Tennessee State University where she majored in zoology. There she was initiated into the Alpha Chi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated in 1970, and this year she celebrated her 50th anniversary in the sisterhood.
It was also at Tennessee State that she met the love of her life, Carl A. Burrell, Sr. They met in chemistry lab her freshman year, dated throughout undergrad and then married in 1973. Their union produced a beautiful family, including sons Carl II and Samuel and daughter, Yolanda. Wanda and Carl both gave their lives to Christ at a young age, and they made sure to raise their children to love God. Knowing that God had given them the gift of children, Wanda and Carl made sure to dedicate their family back to Him.
Since 1976, they attended 15th Avenue Baptist Church (The House of Faith for the Family) and were very active in their church. Wanda and Carl both sang in the choir, but Wanda’s lasting legacy on this congregation was her love for children. Even as a teenager, Wanda was a trusted babysitter in her hometown neighborhood. Likewise, at 15th Avenue, she became very involved in the Children’s Ministry from its inception, teaching arts and crafts for Children’s Church and serving in Vacation Bible School. For more than 30 years, she was dedicated to the Children’s Ministry. Her impact stretched for generations, such that she has had the pleasure of teaching even the children of her children in the ministry.
While raising her own three children and serving the children of her church, Wanda’s 40+ year career as a college professor gave her the opportunity to have a lasting impact on yet another set of young people. After finishing her Masters of Science in Public Health at Meharry Medical College in 1981, Wanda began teaching there in the pathology department. In 1990, she moved to the Allied Health Program, a joint medical technology program between Tennessee State and Meharry, where she taught for twenty years. In the last 10 years of her tenured career, Professor Burrell taught upper-level biology and chemistry, epidemiology, and intro-to-health courses at Tennessee State. Wanda was well respected by her colleagues and by her beloved students. She went above and beyond her duty as an instructor and took on the role of counselor and mentor for her students. She was loving, compassionate and fair, and she cared for her students like she would her own children. She taught them life skills that would serve them in their careers and beyond, and she was passionate about her students’ success.
Wanda’s entry to heaven was preceded by that of her mother, father, and brother. She is survived by her loving husband, Carl; three adoring children Carl II, Samuel (Dominique), and Yolanda; her four precious grandchildren MaKayla, Jaxson, Skylar, and Londyn; her two sisters Roselyn Barnett and La Verne Carmichael, and a host of beloved extended family and friends who will forever cherish her memory.
Public visitation Tuesday, October 13, 2020 from 1-6pm @ Highland Hills Funeral Home. Visitation Wednesday October 14, 2020 from 11am-1pm with a private service at 1pm @ Highland Hills Funeral Home, 2422 Brick Church Pike. The funeral service will be available for viewing via Facebook on the Highland Hills Funeral Home & Crematory Facebook page beginning at 12:55pm.
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