On January 22, hundreds of Marietta College students and faculty came together in a memorial gathering to celebrate the life of sophomore Caitlin Yager, who died in a car accident on Dec. 26, 2013.
Yager, of Youngstown, Ohio, would have been 20 years old on Jan. 28. A double major in history and religious studies, she was a heavily involved student on campus. Yager ran track and cross country, was a tour guide, peer mentor, student senate representative, and Sigma Kappa recruiting chair, and was a part of both the honors program and the McDonough Leadership program.
In just three semesters, she also resurrected College Students for Common Sense, a political club on campus that had become stagnant. In addition, she pioneered the Marietta Interfaith Club, a reflection of her desire for students of all faiths to have a safe place for community and dialogue. In the spring, she had plans to study abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Yager’s memorial service, held in Fenton Court, was an opportunity for those who had been touched by her to reflect on her short, but fully-lived life. Dr. Joseph Bruno, who opened the ceremony, described Yager’s death as “the saddest experience I’ve had since coming to the College,” but said that it also brought out Marietta College’s deep sense of connectedness and care for each other.
Junior and student body President Jessica Johnson followed Bruno with a charge for those present.
“Please, hold on to your memories of [Caitlin], and don’t ever let them die,” she said. “That’s what’s always going to keep her spirit here at Marietta.”
Several of Yager’s close friends had the opportunity to speak at the service, including juniors Ryan Turnewitsch, Natalie Mayan, and Alina Kielbasa, and sophomores Gene Neill and Annalee Haviland. Dr. Janet Bland and Dr. Robert Pastoor also spoke.
Yager was remembered by her friends as a “servant leader,” “always positive,” and “the best listener.” The speakers reflected fondly on her bright personality.
“She refused negativity,” Kielbasa, Yager’s big sister in Sigma Kappa, said. “I think she may have wanted you to know this: You have value. You have worth. In honor of her, I ask that you share that message with others.”
Bland, Yager’s adviser, spoke passionately of Yager’s thirst for pursuing the future.
“She was the purest sort of optimist,” Bland said. “Let us take up a bit of Caitlin into our hearts and be inspired.”
Even after her death, Caitlin could inspire laughter among everyone as those closest to her reflected on her “sassy” personality. Without failure, every speaker mentioned her love for baking, a hobby she was fondly remembered by and shared eagerly with everyone who knew her.
All who spoke of Yager shared a similar message: she had a firecracker personality that could light always light up a room, yet she was sensitive, caring, and loyal to her friends in all circumstances. She was proactive. She wanted to change the world, and most importantly, she inspired others to do the same.
At the end of the service, Bland had a special message for the class of 2016.
“At graduation, you will think of Caitlin,” she said. “Know that she is right there with you, heading off into the world.”
In six weeks, Yager will be receiving her own memorial plaque on one of the benches outside of the Dyson Baudo Recreation Center, Pastoor said.
Yager will be deeply missed by her friends, sorority sisters, and most importantly, her family at Marietta College.