Celebrating the legacy of Merrianneeta Nesbitt: ‘a powerhouse facilitator’

Friends and family gathered to honor her life.



Merrianneeta Nesbitt was a Sociology instructor and the Assistant Director of Faculty and Staff Equity Education.

ALISA VOLZ, Evergreen reporter

Merrianneeta Nesbitt, assistant director of the Office of Outreach and Education in Student Affairs, passed away in December after battling cancer. 

Friends and family gathered in the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center on Thursday to celebrate her life, share memories and honor her legacy. 

Nesbitt spent 27 years working at WSU, where she educated countless students, staff, faculty and community members. 

Jaime Nolan, Nesbitt’s close friend and former colleague described Nesbitt as a joyful, compassionate and tenacious person who always knew how to comfort the people in her life. 

Nolan said Nesbitt always knew just how to make her smile. She said that she and Nesbitt could talk to one another about anything, funny or serious. 

“We could talk for hours about the state of the world and justice,” she said. “She also had a wicked sense of humor.” 

Nolan said Nesbitt encouraged her to speak at the Black Lives Matter demonstrations on campus. 

“She told me, ‘Economic justice is racial justice,” she said. “Environmental justice is racial justice. Climate justice is racial justice. Justice is justice.’” 

Nesbitt was an extremely kind and compassionate soul who was passionate about music, art and nature, Nolan said. 

“We would be sitting on my deck looking out over the gardens and birds and we would be watching and taking it all in,” she said. “Our conversations were so informed by nature.” 

Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center on January 27, 2023.

Motherhood was important to Nesbitt, and her two sons were everything to her, Nolan said. 

Matthew Jeffries, Nesbitt’s colleague and friend, also described motherhood as of immense importance to her.  

“She was a really proud mom,” Jeffries said. “I think that is something she would want people to know.” 

Jeffries, director of the Campus Climate and Community Building, worked with Nesbitt on numerous projects, including the Community and Equity Certificate Program. 

The Community and Equity Certificate Program was designed to help educate faculty and staff on topics such as discussing equity, using inclusive language, and striving for fairness and equality. 

“Everyone has culture, but we don’t always see it that way,” Jeffries said. 

He said that alongside Nesbitt, he helped create methods to educate people about cultural differences.  

“She was a powerhouse facilitator,” Jeffries said. “I co-facilitated with her dozens of times in my time here at WSU and every time she was just like magic in her ability to answer tough questions in really easily accessible ways for both a person who is brand new to diversity, equity and inclusion work or someone who was advanced in it.” 

Jeffries said Nesbitt was passionate about educating people through her sociology courses and her workshop training. Jeffries said that he thinks education is a major legacy Nesbitt leaves behind at WSU. 

“She was so thoughtful and diligent about how courses were curated, making sure that anyone who’s training was well prepared, and that they have guidance and mentorship through the process of learning how to become a trainer,” he said. 

Jeffries said Nesbitt’s legacy lives on through continued education about inclusivity, diversity and equity.