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Former Saint Mary’s student dies in accident

| Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The death of former first year Madelyn Stephenson has weighed heavily on the Saint Mary’s community in recent weeks. Stephenson is remembered fondly by friends and faculty, and a memorial service for Stephenson will be held Friday at 4 p.m. in Regina Chapel.

Stephenson, 19, died Friday, Jan. 3 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

According to The South Bend Tribune, the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department said Stephenson was southbound on U.S. 31 near 7B Road in Plymouth, Ind., just after 11 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 3.  Stephenson’s Honda was struck on the driver’s side after turning into the path of a semi-tractor.

The investigation is ongoing with assistance from the Indiana State Police, according to the Tribune. Alcohol was not a factor in the incident, the Tribune reported.

Though Stephenson was planning to attend Indiana University in Bloomington this spring, she completed her fall semester at Saint Mary’s while living off campus in Granger, Ind., her hometown.

Fellow first year and friend Elizabeth Renner said she especially enjoyed sitting next to Stephenson and listening to all the funny jokes she would utter beneath her breath in their Arabic course last fall.

“Madelyn was shy, but once you got to know her, she was someone very special. She was bubbly and had great enthusiasm for the Arabic language,” Renner said.  “After moving seats towards the end of the semester, I was able to get to know her better.  She was so helpful whenever I did not catch a phrase or if I missed class. She was always ahead of the class and a very smart girl.  I wish the rest of the class had a chance to hear her hilarious jokes. She will be missed by our Arabic class so much.”

Her teachers from the College remember her as a quiet but friendly student with a passion for the sciences and learning.

Stephenson’s advisor and associate professor of biology Ryan Dombkowski said she was passionate about science and had plans to pursue a degree in environmental science.

“Madelyn was a quiet and reserved young woman, yet full of enthusiasm about science, especially with regard to the environment,” Dombkowski said. “From the short time I knew her, she was quite pleasant to have in class. I am sure she brought a lot of joy and happiness to her family, and our thoughts and prayers are certainly with them during this difficult time.”

Another of Stephenson’s professors, Professor Soraya Wirth, remembers her as passionate about her studies and medicine in Wirth’s Arabic course.

“I found her to be very studious, to be a person with a very legitimate passion for learning … and to thoroughly enjoy the culture and traditions of Middle-Eastern countries.” Wirth said, “Madelyn shared with me and her classmates her dream of becoming a doctor, and she was very excited about it.”

Wirth also said Stephenson stood out academically and respected by her classmates.

“She was one of my best students and had not missed any Arabic class throughout the semester. Madelyn was highly respected and regarded by all of her classmates, and she was always in control over any adverse situation,” Wirth said. “I am so sad that her journey came to an end with this horrible accident … she was a truly enjoyable student.”

Saint Mary’s President Carol Ann Mooney expressed her sympathy to the College’s community in a Jan. 7 email.

“On behalf of the entire Saint Mary’s College community, I would like to express our heartfelt condolences to Madelyn’s family,” Mooney said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Death is never easy, especially when it is a young person with so much life ahead of her.”

Grief counseling is available to students through Saint Mary’s Women’s Health Center, Campus Ministry and Residence Life and Community Standards.

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About Kelly Konya

Kelly Konya is an English major bred on Catcher in the Rye and Roman cornettos.

Contact Kelly