By Rich Pollack
HIGHLAND BEACH — Sandra Featherman, a leader in the world of higher education and a tireless advocate for the rights of women and children, died April 26. She was 84.
The wife of former Highland Beach Mayor Bernard Featherman, Mrs. Featherman spent 11 years as president of the University of New England in southern Maine and was a well-respected political scientist, an author of books and more than 50 professional papers, a television and radio show host, and a philanthropist.
Most of all, Mrs. Featherman spent much of her life helping to change lives either through her higher education efforts or her activism.
“The legacy of making a difference is something she was very proud of,” said her son Andrew Featherman. “She fought all her life for higher education and she fought all her life helping to empower women.”
In a November interview with The Coastal Star, Mrs. Featherman said she often heard from students from many years ago, letting her know about her positive impact on their lives.
“I’m very proud of the fact that people will still write me and tell me I’ve made a serious difference in their lives,” she said.
While she spent decades in higher education as a professor and an administrator — including a four-year term as vice chancellor of academic affairs at the University of Minnesota in Duluth — Mrs. Featherman is best known in academic circles for her leadership at the University of New England.
During her years as president, several academic programs and majors were added, and the student enrollment grew at a steady pace. Under Mrs. Featherman’s leadership, the university gained a national reputation for its leadership in health care education.
Although she retired in 2006, Mrs. Featherman remained active in higher education circles, serving as a commissioner of accreditation for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
“She accredited hundreds of colleges across the country,” said Andrew Featherman.
In Florida, she was on the board of trustees of Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland and the board of Gulf Stream School.
“She was very proud of her involvement with Florida Poly Tech,” Andrew Featherman said.
Her years in higher education led her to write her 2014 book, Higher Education at Risk: Strategies to Improve Outcomes, Reduce Tuition, and Stay Competitive in a Disruptive Environment.
Mrs. Featherman was also well regarded as a political scientist with a knack for accurately predicting election outcomes, especially local elections. She did not try to predict the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, however, believing it would be too close to call.
“I’m a very good election prognosticator,” she said. “I understand politics, it’s in my bones.”
Her skills earned her regular election night appearances on local television stations and made her an expert source for newspapers across the country, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
Memorial services were held late last month in Philadelphia, and family members are planning to host a South Florida celebration of her life — possibly this summer — for her many friends in Highland Beach and the surrounding area.
Mrs. Featherman is survived by her husband, Bernard Featherman; sons Andrew (Elizabeth) and John (Masako); and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
Contributions from Florida may be made in her name to Florida Polytechnic University.