I am Emma Stanger’s father. I came to campus on Saturday to attend the memorial service organized by Emma’s friends in her memory. I wanted to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to everyone in the University of Chicago community for the breadth and depth of the love and support that have been extended to Emma’s siblings and me since her death. Emma had truly found a home at the University. She thrived on the intellectual challenges, reveled in the camaraderie of new friendships, and absorbed new experiences at an exhilarating rate—from a coffee at Starbucks, to an all-nighter at the library, to her too-frequent trips to Michigan Avenue, Emma blossomed.
But more than any of those things, Emma basked in the bright glow of all the friendships she made. As much as anyone, Emma understood that the friendships she made at the U of C were the friendships that would continue for the rest of her life. Several hundred of those friends attended her memorial service on Saturday and Emma would have greeted every one of them with a smile and a kind word.
I am grateful for the kind words I have received from so many at the U of C, from President Zimmer, from Emma’s teachers and classmates, from her sisters at Kappa Alpha Theta, and from her friends. I would like to extend special thanks to the staff of the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel (especially Associate Dean Laura Hollinger), to each of the speakers at the service for their kind and thoughtful words, and to the members of the UC Greek community (especially Kappa Alpha Theta) for showing up to honor Emma’s memory. Finally, simple words cannot adequately express the love and gratitude I have for Emma’s closest friends, Mimi Zhang, Desiree Dickerson, and Averill Aubrey, who jointly organized the memorial service and then graciously accompanied me and my son throughout our brief visit on Saturday. It was easy to understand why they had become such an important part of Emma’s life.
When I dropped off Emma at the beginning of O-Week in September 2007, I would not have believed that I would be writing this letter only 18 months later. The support of the entire U of C community has made the loss of my daughter less painful. Thank you.