Matthew Bennett Fitting, 31, a former non-traditional student at Ithaca College, passed away in his sleep at his home in Ithaca on the morning of Sept. 19. He had not been registered at the college since last year and before then sporadically attended.
Aspiring to earn a degree in exercise science, Fitting had previously graduated with highest academic honors from Hudson Valley Community College in 2009.
Though inconsistent in his presence on campus, Fitting touched the lives of several college faculty and staff.
Betsy Keller, professor of exercise and sport sciences, taught a class Fitting was in last year and recalled his positive attitude.
“I am saddened by his passing,” Keller said. “He was a great guy with a wonderful ‘glass half full’ attitude.”
Jackie Wandell, an administrative assistant in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, spoke with Fitting many times and said he had dealt with health issues.
“He had health problems in his 20s, which developed his passions for exercise science,” Wandell said.
Wandell said Fitting was good-natured and courteous, and he had a strong relationship with his father.
“Matt was a kind soul. He always had a smile on his face and was always extremely polite and respectful by nature,” Wandell said. “I spoke with Matt and his father on many occasions, and you could always tell what a close relationship they had and how proud his father was of him. My heart was heavy last week with his passing. He will be missed by all of the exercise and sport sciences faculty.”
John Sigg, associate dean of health science and human performance, was Fitting’s academic adviser. Sigg said Fitting’s family always hoped he would graduate.
“Matt always had a kind word and a quick smile,” Sigg said. “Matt and his family had a real love for Ithaca College and wanted nothing more than for Matt to graduate from IC. Unfortunately, the health issues that Matt dealt with most of his life did not allow this to happen. He will be missed.”
Aside from seeking a degree from the college, Fitting was also an employee of Lowe’s in Ithaca, where he worked full time. The human resources director of Lowe’s, Aaron Wrench, said Fitting had a great impact on the store since he began work in June.
“He was a tremendous asset to our team,” Wrench said. “He was warm and friendly. He would always go out of his way to help a customer or to assistant one of the employees in the store. He touched a lot of people’s lives here in the short period of time that he worked here. It was a shock to everyone here at the store, and he will be very missed.”
In memory of Fitting, a memorial contribution to Dr. James D. Chang’s heart research has been suggested. Online donations can be made at bidmc.org/giving, or checks can be sent to: Office of Development, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Avenue (BR), Boston, MA 02215.