Members of the Ithaca College community gathered March 31 to honor junior Abby Paquet, who died unexpectedly March 30.
Approximately 100 community members attended the service over Zoom. Paquet was majoring in applied psychology in the School of Humanities and Sciences. During her time at the college, she was the treasurer for the college’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, a student employee for Information Technology, a Dean’s List student and an inductee of the Oracle Honor Society. Speaking from the Muller Chapel, Hierald Osorto, director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, said the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way community members gather to grieve and remember.
“As we gather across screens and locations, this space amplifies our heartbreak,” Osorto said. “In the midst of this grief, feel the love and kindness that Abby radiated. And even at a distance this community’s heart will hold you and keep on beating with you.”
Osorto shared part of a poem, “Blessing for the Brokenhearted,” by Jan Richardson.
President Shirley M. Collado thanked the faculty and staff members who supported Paquet’s growth at the college. Collado said she appreciated the college community for being there for each other and Paquet’s family during this difficult time. She said she wants the campus community to continue moving forward and never take a connection with a person for granted.
“You never get used to losing a student, and I’ve been doing this work for over 20 years, and it never ever gets easy,” Collado said.
La Jerne Cornish, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, asked the attendees to join her in prayer to honor Paquet’s life.
Leigh Ann Vaughn, professor in the Department of Psychology, supervises the Social and Personality research team Paquet was on and spoke on behalf of the Department of Psychology. Vaughn said Paquet was enthusiastic about psychology and wanted to get her Ph.D. in psychology. Vaughn said Paquet was interested in people’s well-being and how they responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Abby was brilliant and enthusiastic, and her teammates, many of whom are here right now, talk about how she always had positive energy and truly treated everyone kindly,” Vaughn said.
She said Paquet began her research quickly despite being online last semester. Vaughn had asked Paquet to work on research over the summer to submit to professional journals.
“She could see both the big picture and where the details fit in, and she did this to a degree remarkable for someone only in their first semester of [a research] team,” Vaughn said. “She made other people on team feel so welcome, and Abby made my team better by being on it.”
Robyn Leary, student services manager for Information Technology, was Paquet’s supervisor in Information Technology. Leary said it was uplifting to see so many people coming together at the memorial. She met Paquet in 2019 when Paquet began working in IT. Leary said Paquet went above and beyond in her work and was always eager to learn more.
“It was immediately apparent that Abby brought kindness and compassion to every person she interacted with,” Leary said. “Whether it’s a friend, a colleague in IT or a client that she served through her roles with us, she always greeted everybody with a warm smile and friendliness.”
David Harker, director of the Center for Civic Engagement and adviser for the college’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity, said Paquet was passionate and committed to her work, especially through Habitat for Humanity.
“She cared deeply about the world around her and how she could make a positive impact on others,” Harker said. “She was incredibly thoughtful, would take time to think things through and her comments and replies would always have great depth and authenticity.”
Harker said that in the Honors Civic Engagement Seminar, Paquet worked on a group project that dealt with mental health, reducing stigma of mental illnesses and the need to come together as a community.
Laurie Kennedy, business teacher and internship coordinator at Williamsville South High School, where Paquet attended, said she spent a lot of time with Paquet during her junior and senior years of high school. Kennedy said Paquet took on a lot of challenges throughout high school and helped to organize different events through clubs she was involved in.
Osorto invited attendees to write messages in the chat box about Paquet. There were approximately 50 messages from people expressing love and appreciation for Paquet. Osorto thanked attendees for sharing memories of how she touched many members of the campus community. Osorto closed the memorial by drawing attendee’s attention to a candle.
“As we extinguish this candle, let us remember that the light has not truly left us, it’s only changed,” Osorto said.
Support services for students are available through the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services at 607-274-3136. Students needing immediate assistance should contact the Office of Public Safety at 607-274-3333 or the on-duty staff for the Office of Residential Life. Faculty and staff can access the counseling services of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) by calling 1-800-327-2255. The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life has a website dedicated to grief resources, and students can also seek support by contacting Osorto at firstname.lastname@example.org.