By Caleb Bissinger
A tireless learner, a thoughtful friend and a passionate equestrian, Kathryn Elizabeth Currier, a first-year student, died unexpectedly on Thursday, Dec. 8 after falling ill in her room in Lewis Hall. Kathryn was transported to Riverside Hospital in Columbus, where she passed away. Her parents, David and Libby Currier, were at her side. She was 18 years old.
The official cause of death will remain unknown for six to eight weeks, pending the results of an autopsy, Libby Currier said.
Born in Indiana, Kathryn lived for the past 10 years in Charlotte, N.C. She graduated from Charlotte Country Day School, where she excelled as a student with a tireless passion for the written word. At her graduation, Kathryn received the Mary Allen Todd English award for exemplifying passion for literature and extraordinary contributions to the study of English. She was also awarded the J.R. Williams History Award recognizing enthusiasm for and contribution to the study of history.
“Kathryn distinguished herself as a young woman of integrity, an advocate for those who needed help, and a trustworthy friend,” said Mark Reed, headmaster of Charlotte Country Day School, in a letter to the school community.
Moved by the thoughtfulness of Kathryn’s words and deeds, one high school teacher wrote in a letter of recommendation, “My world will be less colorful after [Kathryn] leaves, but our world will become brighter and more vivid through her work and efforts.”
Kathryn brought that vivacity to Gambier and into Kenyon’s classrooms. “Kathryn Currier was precisely the type of student you hope to have in your class,” Andrew Ross, visiting assistant professor of history, said in an email. “Engaged with the material and intellectually curious in the best possible way.”
Professor of Art History Eugene Dwyer, who taught Kathryn in his Greek Art course this fall, applauded her indefatigable appetite for learning. “She would have liked to study everything, and was not ready to specialize – practical, but not one to give up on her ideals,” he said in an email. “It is sad not to have been able to watch her mature as a student, but I feel privileged to have known her in the time she was with us.”
Friends, too, were awed by Kathryn’s smarts and diverse academic interests. “I always thought it was impressive that, as a freshman, she braved the 300-level psych courses,” Sarah Schiller ’14 said. “Jesus, was she smart.”
“She was passionate about learning,” Libby Currier said in a phone interview. “That’s why she was just so excited to go to Kenyon. I will tell you that she was very frustrated she could only take four classes. There was just so much she wanted to experience and learn and do.”
On a survey that Instructor of English Ellen Mankoff distributed to her students at the start of this semester, Kathryn wrote that she chose Kenyon in part because of “the course catalog.”
“This alone speaks volumes about her,” Mankoff said in an email.
Kathryn went on to describe herself in the survey as bookish and shy, but determined to grow her confidence and intellect. “Reading and learning are probably the things about which I am most passionate,” Kathryn wrote. “Books are certainly my best friends in life. … I can be a bit shy in class at the outset, but this is something I am working on; I should get better as the class progresses and I (hopefully!) gain confidence. I am looking forward to four years of learning in one of the best English departments in the country.”
“Kathryn could be counted on to be the first to catch every allusion, the first to laugh at a pun,” Mankoff said, “and she laughed often.”
In an email she sent last August to her Upperclass Counselor Greg Culley ’14, Kathryn wrote, “I’m not sure how I will get it all done in four years! I wish I could be a lifelong student.”
Kathryn’s dedication to learning didn’t stop her from pursuing her extracurricular passions, however. In addition to working on Kenyon’s literary magazine Hika, she was a member of the College’s equestrian team. Kathryn’s membership in that group followed a childhood obsession with horses.
“She was the little girl who never played with dolls,” Libby Currier said. Instead, her daughter loved horses. “You should see all the books we have on horses and all the Breyer Horses in my attic. You name it. If it was horsey, we have it.”
Despite the energy she devoted to the stable and the classroom, Kathryn, who didn’t have a Facebook page, made fast friends.
“I was amazed by how many friends she had made in her brief time here,” President S. Georgia Nugent said in an email, “and how movingly students spoke of what they would most remember about Kathryn.”
Kathryn impressed peers with her quick wit and self-deprecating humor. “I was overjoyed to find someone who cared even more about Quiz Bowl and trivia nights at the Village Inn than I did,” Andrew Stewart ’15 said in an email. “At our first trivia night, we argued about what our team name should be, not coming up with many ideas; at the next competition, she brought a long list of terrific possibilities, including E=MC Hammer.”
Kathryn was also a passionate soccer fan who played the sport at the varsity level in high school. Over the summer, she wrote to Culley, “Should you know anyone who keeps up with the EPL, La Liga, or other assorted leagues, please let me know.” And in the same email she joked that she was “the future wife of Peyton Manning,”-quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts-“though he does not yet know this.”
She was an academic, a humorist and an athlete, but friends, faculty and family say they will remember Kathryn best for her kindness. “She stood for what we should all strive for: intelligence, sweetness, tolerance,” Stewart said.
Ross echoed that admiration. “I could tell from my interactions with her both in and out of class that she was just a very kind person,” he said.
“I will remember Kathryn for the things she did outside of the classroom,” classmate Megan Shaw ’15 said, “the way she always had a smile or encouraging word for someone having a rough day, her confidence as well as her humility, and the way she could effortlessly engage anyone in an interesting conversation.”
Kathryn was sensitive to others, particularly those who struggled to fit in, according to her mother. “She just also seemed to be a very kind soul, always very empathetic about those that were always on the outer edges. Especially in high school, it can be very clique-y. That’s what she loved about Kenyon: you could be who you were, who you are. It was respected, embraced and encouraged,” Libby Currier said.
Kathryn even imbued the awkwardness of Orientation with verve. “From the moment I met Kathryn, she was constantly enthusiastic about the experience that was ahead of her,” Culley said. “Everything that we did during Orientation, even the seemingly mundane, Kathryn found the best of, and didn’t let a smile leave her face. … Her affinity for everything Kenyon reminded me, and continues to remind me, just how special and inspiring this place truly is.”
Other friends remember Kathryn as a model student and person. “Kathryn came to Kenyon with the intellectual passion, the global engagement and the graceful maturity that many of us aspire to attain by the time we leave it,” Lexie Martin ’12 said.
With pride, Libby Currier saw her daughter’s sense of social responsibility thrive at Kenyon. “She loved that sense of community and working together for the greater good,” she said. “I was thrilled to be just her mom, and I loved her dearly.”
Kathryn is survived by her father, David; mother, Libby; brothers Clark and John; maternal grandparents Susan and John Wetzel; and grandmother Nancee Currier.
She is also survived by the love of literature with which she filled journals and lit up classrooms. In prose she found not only friendship, but purpose. As Kathryn wrote in a reading response for Mankoff’s class, “[T]he beauty of literature and poetry [is] that it can be experienced by anyone. Indeed, sometimes reading, sometimes words, are the only thing a person has; reading can be the most wonderful means of escape from this world, and reading can also be the most wonderful means of connecting to this world.”
– Additional reporting by Marika Garland, David McCabe and Erin Mershon.
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