Courtesy of Sarah Jane McMorrow ’24

Sarah Jane McMorrow ’24 will recieve $15,000 for her commitment to social good.

March 26, 2024

Volunteer EMT, Firefighter, Pre-Medical Student: Sarah Jane McMorrow ’24 to Receive JFK Award for Public Service

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As a firefighter, emergency medical technician and computer science student on the premedical track, Sarah Jane McMorrow ’24 wears many hats.

She will now be awarded $15,000 for her commitment to social good as the recipient of the 2024 Class of 1964 John F. Kennedy Memorial Award. Pursuing a computer science major and an anthropology minor, McMorrow aspires to further her dedication to public service by attaining a medical degree and forging a career in forensic pathology.

Originally from Concord, MA, McMorrow has served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT with the Varna Volunteer Fire Company since 2022. 

“I never would have expected myself to become a firefighter — I mean, I’m not the strongest person, and I’m also pretty small,” McMorrow said. “But I realize it’s better to be doing something rather than just saying ‘I’ll let someone else do it,’ because more help is always better.” 

McMorrow was named “Fire Rookie of the Year,” after devoting more than 260 hours to the company and responding to 911 calls in the last year. She took several courses and pursued numerous certifications in firefighting essentials, including surface water rescue

“We were impressed by her humility regarding all she has accomplished and the sincerity of her commitment to serving the public,” wrote Cynthia Wolloch ’64, chair of the JFK Memorial Award for Public Service in an email to The Sun. “While there were several top contenders in our application pool, McMorrow quickly rose to the top. We are proud to have her in the JFK family.”

According to Wolloch, the Class of 1964 created the $15,000 JFK Award during their final year as a tribute to President John F. Kennedy’s dedication to public service. The JFK Award has been presented annually since 1965 to graduating seniors who are pursuing careers in service.

“I was very surprised to receive the award, because I know that there’s a lot of really talented people at the school,” McMorrow said. “It’s a really huge honor to be chosen for this [award].” 

McMorrow said she originally intended to major in anthropology, where she identified her passion in archaeology and forensics, but realized she was less interested in the historical components of the field. Instead, she said she opted for computer science to build valuable technical skills for research opportunities. 

She has so far applied her computational skills to maize genetics research at the Buckler Lab and while studying human remains at the Human and Animal Bone Laboratory

Sarah Jane McMorrow ’24 is a volunteer firefighter and EMT with the Varna Volunteer Fire Company. (Courtesy of Sarah Jane McMorrow ’24)

However, balancing 30 hours of volunteering per week with research commitments and a challenging workload is no easy feat. As a pre-med student in computer science, McMorrow must also simultaneously meet the requirements for both her major and her future medical studies.

As a self-described workaholic, McMorrow said she squeezes in homework time while at the station, but volunteering has helped her reassess her academic pressure. 

“I guess things have really been put into perspective for me because exams and homework — they don’t really feel all that dire to me anymore when I deal with real emergencies,” McMorrow said. “I really just care about finding a strong community and helping the people that I can.”

Beyond her work at the station, McMorrow helped found Bicons to support bi+ individuals at Cornell. She is also involved in Cornell’s On Tap Dance Troupe and the Cornell Center for Health Equity

McMorrow said that her involvement in anthropological, community-based and scientific activities speaks to her affinity for interdisciplinary subjects. Her ultimate goal to become a forensic pathologist aligns with both her diverse interests and desire to better the world. 

“I like forensics because the [I like the idea] of helping bring justice to people and doing a job that a lot of people wouldn’t be [willing] to handle,” McMorrow said. “Being able to go to a crime scene and go to court and also work in a medical lab — I like interdisciplinary things. I think I would really enjoy [it].” 

McMorrow will work on an archeological dig in Peru this summer, in addition to continuing to volunteer with the fire department. 

McMorrow does not know what she will do with her award money just yet, but she said she plans to take two gap years before hopefully pursuing an M.D.-Ph.D. dual degree to cover both forensic pathology and anthropology. 

“I’ve just learned about all the inequalities in our country, and a lot of that does stem from the criminal justice system,” McMorrow said. “From a forensic standpoint — that’s a way I can help.”