To celebrate the life of Victoria “Tori” Howell, 20, an Ithaca College junior who died over break, members of the Ithaca College community will gather at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Muller Chapel for a memorial service.
Howell died as the result of a car accident Dec. 30 while traveling on State Route 366 in the Town of Dryden, according to the New York State Police. Howell lost control of her vehicle and struck an automobile traveling east. The accident was reported at 1:27 p.m. She was transported to Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca where she later died from her injuries.
Howell was an English major with a minor in psychology. During the fall of 2011, she studied at the Ithaca College London Center. She also worked for Purity Ice Cream and Ithaca College Dining Services on campus.
Amanda Kellerson, direct employee supervisor at Purity Ice Cream, said they closed the store when they were informed of Howell’s death.
“We received a phone call at the store from her mother the night she died,” Kellerson said. “We closed the store immediately. For some of us, it took awhile to sink in.”
Howell was also a dedicated member of the Harry Potter Alliance and To Write Love on Her Arms. On Dec. 5, Howell was inducted into Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society of the college.
Ruth, Howell’s mother, said she, Howell’s father and brother were devastated by the news of the death.
“How are we supposed to continue without the light of our lives?” she said.
Ruth said her daughter was compassionate and would accept people for who they were. Ruth said she remembers a particular incident about a young man in high school who said he liked Howell. When she didn’t reciprocate, the man had wanted to know why and Howell had responded with a letter.
Ruth said the young man had come up to her after Howell’s death.
“This young man came to calling hours because she had taken that time to think about him and give him honest feedback and answers,” she said. “That’s what Tori was all about. She was straightforward and honest and truthful and cared about everybody and anything.”
Howell had a lot to be proud of, her mother said, but her greatest pride was her friends.
“They meant the world to her,” she said. “She really, really loved her friends and loved having them be part of her life and she a part of theirs’.”
Junior Cassie Medcalf, Howell’s roommate during their freshman year, said all of Howell’s friends were special to her.
“If you were her friend, you were important to her,” she said. “She is such a good friend because she doesn’t fake friendship. She wasn’t going to pretend to like somebody. If you were her friend, you were her friend for a reason.”
Junior Grace Wivell was one of Howell’s close friends. Wivell recalled a time when she and Howell had gone in search of the town of Agloe, New York — a fictitious town in John Green’s 2008 book, “Paper Towns.”
“We just packed a picnic lunch and were like, ‘We are going to go find Agloe’ and we ended up in this little fishing town and there was this castle,” she said. “It was like something out of a book or a movie.”
Wivell, who met Howell during their freshmen year, said Howell was always determined to get something meaningful out of everything she did.
“She was one of those people who never really got satisfaction out of something like a good grade in a class or on a test,” she said. “It was whether or not she had done something meaningful.”
Senior Ashlyn Velte spent a semester with her in London. She said one night when they were on their way home from a charity concert when they realized they had no way of getting back home.
“The bus schedule we were supposed to take wasn’t running because they had delays on the line,” she said, smiling. “At three in the morning, we are dressed up and trying to find our way around the shady parts of London. And it was a really good time.”
Velte said she will truly feel Howell’s absence. She also said Howell’s demeanor was one her greatest attributes.
“She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and tell you how she felt,” she said. “She was outspoken and happy.”
Howell’s mother recalls her daughter’s high school days. Howell stepped up to be co-president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender group, just because nobody else was stepping up. She was also a Girl Scout and an ardent Harry Potter Fan.
“It’s a great tragedy,” her mother said. “She had an awful lot to offer and she won’t get to complete that.”
The college’s English department is planning to name an annual book prize after Howell. The prize will be awarded to outstanding English majors or minors whose academic or extracurricular work reflects Howell’s intellectual interests and values.
In addition, part of the college’s annual “Pippi to Ripley: Female Figures of Science Fiction Conference” will be dedicated to Howell. The conference will take place in May.
Katharine Kittredge, professor of English, is the coordinator of this conference and was one of Howell’s professors. She said the event will be a contest in which teams of students from local middle schools, high schools and colleges come together to test their knowledge of all things fantasy and science fiction. It will be named the “Tori Cup Fantasy and Science Fiction Challenge.”
“I am hoping that Tori’s spirit will inspire other young people in the area to share their passions and to come together as a community,” Kittredge said.
Kittredge also said she is saddened by the fact that Howell’s death left so many missed opportunities.
“She was becoming one of the most rewarding students in my career,” she said. “I am so sad I won’t be able to introduce her to the Cornell Archives, or to direct her Honors thesis or watch her do her first professional presentation.”
Howell was registered to conduct an independent study with Kittredge’s help this semester. Kittredge said Howell was a bright yet humble student.
“She was always with a smile when she was offering her opinion,” she said. “There is no grandstanding. She just had this wealth of thought and she expressed herself beautifully. She had so much joy in finding others who would share her passions.”