Community honors Straus with memorial

by Martha Schick / Beacon Staff • November 12, 2014

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President M. Lee Pelton and Residence Director Caitlin Courtney attended the gathering.
President M. Lee Pelton and Residence Director Caitlin Courtney attended the gathering.

At Emerson’s memorial for Jocelyn Amelia Straus, student and faculty speakers recounted experiences they shared with her at Emerson. The event, held on Nov. 7 at the Bill Bordy Theater, was meant to remember and celebrate Straus, a freshman who took her own life last month.

As they arrived, attendees were given a copy of the mourner’s kaddish, a Jewish prayer, in Hebrew and English. Karen Nahary, Emerson’s Jewish Life and Hillel adviser, started the memorial with spiritual reflection on Straus’ life and a reading of the kaddish.

“Think of a way you can make a difference and give back—a true act of kindness—and make it in memory of Jocelyn’s legacy,” Nahary said to the audience of roughly 25.

Dean of Students Ronald Ludman read a tribute written by Straus’ mother, Donna Sidel, who he said could not attend. In the letter, she referenced Straus’ health issues, including migraines, which led to hospitalization and depression. She wrote about how much Straus loved Emerson and how she tried to fight through her chronic pain while at school.

“She got to live a normal life for a while and that was a huge accomplishment,” Ludman read, “but the toll it took on her was just too much to bear.” 

Caitlin Brown, a junior visual and media arts major and Straus’ resident assistant, spoke about Straus’ engagement on the floor. Brown laughed as she told a story about the first floor meeting of the year, during which Straus suggested game nights and scrapbooking for the floor, and the idea to push for cats in the residence halls.

Robert Kubacki, a communication studies professor, and Robert Dulgarian, a writing, literature, and publishing professor, spoke about their experiences teaching Straus. Both talked about her willingness to speak up in class and how much she is missed.

Four freshmen students who were friends with Straus shared remarks, including one of her suitemates, Foustene Fortenbach, who directed her speech to Straus. 

“Thank you for being so welcoming and open with me, for defending me when I was too shy to say anything myself,” Fortenbach said. “Thank you for sharing yourself with me.”

Throughout the memorial, speakers urged anyone struggling to seek help. At the end of the program, numbers for the Counseling Center and the Center for Spiritual Life were provided. 


Beacon correspondent Brihathi Cherukuri contributed reporting to this article.