University mourns Abbie Harper, 23

Harper is remembered for her “honesty and transparency” and down-to-earth attitude.

By Stephanie Xiao

Abbie Harper, a second-year student in the Law School, died last week. Her body was found in her Regents Park apartment last Thursday night. She was 23.

According to an e-mail sent to the Law School community by Dean Michael Schill and Dean of Students Amy Gardner, Harper died of natural causes. She is remembered for her intelligence, compassion, creativity, love for her family, and faith.

“[Her parents] asked that we share with you that they are comforted by Abbie’s strong Christian faith and by how happy she was to be a student at the Law School,” Schill and Gardner wrote. “We hope we can take solace in the fact that…Abbie knew this was the place she was meant to be.”

In an e-mail to the Maroon, Gardner also emphasized Harper’s academic success and how much she enjoyed her classes.

“Abbie was an exceptional Law School student. She was happy to be in class, and her professors talked about the joy with which she approached even the sometimes-stressful situation of being called on under the Socratic method of questioning,” Gardner said.

Originally from Maryville, Tennessee, Harper graduated with degrees in journalism and political science from Miami University in Ohio in 2012 before matriculating at the Law School as part of the class of 2015. She was active in the Law School’s Women’s Mentoring Program, the Christian Legal Society, and intramural volleyball. She also mentored undergraduates through UChicago Careers in Law.

Second-year law student Jessica Gonzalez, the president of the Christian Legal Society, remembered Harper as one of her first friends on campus.

“Moving to Chicago was a huge shock to begin with, and it was something I bonded with her over since she also came from the South,” Gonzalez said. “When I think about Abbie, I think about someone who was very giggly. The first time I saw her, she was uplifting.”

Harper was also an avid writer who enjoyed reading and discussing literature with her short story club.

“She was really creative. That week before she passed…we met for breakfast and read the short story she picked out, ‘Babes in the Jungle’ by O. Henry. She seemed to like the way that he gave such a surprise ending,” Gonzalez said.

Harper was “pursuing her dream to help internationally underprivileged communities,” according to her hometown newspaper. She worked at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies in Johannesburg, South Africa last summer as part of the Law School’s international human rights program. In the essay she was required to write at the end of the program, her “humility and passion” for her work shone through clearly, Gardner said.

“Abbie truly cared about her fellow students…. Her personality came through most clearly in her suggestions for future students, where she provided detailed directions on how to avoid mistakes she had made,” Gardner wrote. “She went to such lengths to help make it less stressful for future students to move to Johannesburg and help others.”

“What I enjoy and remember her most by is just her honesty and transparency,” Gonzalez said. “She was completely relatable. Even though she’s had all these experiences, she was so down-to-earth, and she was always someone I was very comfortable talking to.”

Most of all, Harper loved and was loved by the many members of her family, including her new nephew. According to Gardner, she had already started her Christmas shopping.

Harper is survived by her parents, her three sisters, her brother-in-law, her nephew, and her four grandparents. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. this Sunday at Bond Chapel.

—Additional reporting by Carolyn Kang