December 2-13, 2006
As we move toward finals and the end of the semester, the loss of Elizabeth Aakre is very much on my mind as I know it is on yours. I attended Elizabeth’s funeral earlier this week, along with Dean Mahoney and a number of Elizabeth’s friends from Smith. Our community will come together at 11 a.m. on Friday, December 15, for a memorial service at the Helen Hills Hills Chapel.
I fully understand the desire for definitive answers in situations like this, both for their possible value in bringing emotional resolution and in helping us all to better understand our own vulnerabilities. Many of you are aware that Elizabeth died at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. Her friends took her to the hospital after she fell ill. We don’t know what caused her death and results may not be known for some time.
Tragic incidents like this, without evidence of violence or foul play, often generate rumors and speculation. As Smith’s president, I weigh the instructive value of information against what is often the desire to satisfy curiosity. My priorities are to help Smith students be safe and well, to ensure you have positive supports, and to educate you about risk-taking behaviors, all the while recognizing your responsibilities as young people who value your independence and self-governance. I will ensure there is ample opportunity to engage in discussions of these matters in the spring semester.
We have all been shaken and saddened by these events, but the strength of our community is evident in the support and concern expressed by so many of you. I wish all of you a restful and restorative winter break.
Carol T. Christ
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
I am writing to invite you to a memorial service for Elizabeth Aakre, class of 2010, to be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, December 15, at Helen Hills Hills Chapel. Dean of Religious Life Jennifer Walters will lead us as we gather to remember Elizabeth.
Carol T. Christ
Dear Members of the Smith Community:
I want you all to know that I share the concern and grief expressed by members of our community at the death of first-year student Elizabeth Aakre. I have extended the college’s deepest sympathies to Elizabeth’s parents. Understandably, many of you have questions about her death. The college does not have any answers about the circumstances of her death, and we may never know this private information. We want to respect the decisions of Elizabeth’s family and to honor Elizabeth’s memory. I ask that we refrain from speculation and rumor; they only serve to create additional pain. We hope to be able to announce an on-campus memorial service for Elizabeth in the very near future.
Carol T. Christ
Dean of the College Maureen Mahoney sent the following message to students Saturday, December 2.
It is my sad duty to tell you of the death today of first-year student Elizabeth Aakre. This tragedy is particularly sobering because it comes in the middle of winter weekend, a time reserved for partying and fun. Elizabeth's housemates in Comstock House met with residence life staff, Dean Ohotnicky, and Dean Walters this evening. Elizabeth will be remembered tomorrow at Vespers, and I will let you know of plans for a memorial service as soon as they unfold.
If you need support during this difficult time, you should be in touch with Public Safety at ext. 2490. They are there 24 hours a day and will be able to connect you with Counseling Services or Residence Life staff. Please keep yourselves safe this weekend.
Maureen A. Mahoney Dean of the College