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Jessica Eve Ettenger ’11

A picture of Jessica Ettenger

Jessica Ettenger ’11 prepares for a stage role at Reed in 2002.

Jessica Eve Ettenger ’11, March 13, at Reed. Jessica was found dead in her dorm room in Bragdon Hall over spring break. She was 20 years old and had recently declared her major in philosophy. While the nature of her death remains unclear, local authorities have ruled out foul play, illegal drugs, and alcohol. In deference to the wishes of her family, Mike Brody, dean of students, asked the community to refrain from speculation as to the remaining possibilities, and to attempt to “make some semblance of peace with the unknowable.” Hailing from Santa Monica, Jessica arrived at Reed in 2007 and cut a distinctive figure on campus with her engaging personality and stylish outfits. In a letter to her parents, religion professor Ken Brashier [1998–] wrote: “I was Jessica's academic adviser for several years, and I had also served as her teacher in no less than four different classes. It's hard for me to write letters of sympathy when normally I'd be writing letters of recommendation for her instead. “I knew Jessica even before she briefly transferred to Chicago, and as she was always interactive and friendly, I got to know her as well as a teacher ever gets to know his students . . . I last saw Jessica about two weeks ago when she dropped by my office to query about 'change of adviser' forms. Typical of Jessica, she was worried I'd be upset with her 'defection,' as we jokingly called it, and wanted to know if she could keep coming by even though she wasn't in our department anymore. I assured her that Reed departments don't defend impervious boundaries, and that small colleges are much more collegial and interdisciplinary in such matters. At the time, she seemed happy and interactive, and it saddens me that her closure with my own department would coincidentally foreshadow a greater closure . . . “Let me close with quoting from one of those letters of recommendation that I had written for her: 'I am currently teaching Jessica in a heavy reading course (averaging at least 80 pages a day with weekly writing assignments in addition to formal papers and group projects) entitled “Religion and philosophy in pre-imperial China,” and while her particular class is overall extremely good, there is no doubt she is among the best. She is extremely interactive in an informed manner, always prepared and with thoughtful opinions about the materials. Yet she is deferential to her colleagues and will ask about their own insights. Jessica is definitely an asset to our daily discussions and is a student I would be happy to teach in subsequent courses.' “There will of course no longer be any subsequent courses, and she will be sincerely missed.” Spanish professor Diego Alonso [2001–] wrote: “I wish I could be with you on this day to try to bring you some comfort, talking with you about the great respect and affection I have for Jessica. I was her Spanish professor during her first year at Reed and from the first weeks of class, I discovered that she was a young woman with very special human qualities. A person of deep intelligence and kindness. And while this may not be of real solace at this moment, I want especially to tell her parents that they can be truly proud of having brought up this beautiful person whom we will always remember. The news of her decease, which I just received in Buenos Aires, fills me with pain and motivates these brief but heartfelt words.” Outside class, Jessica was campus coordinator for Project Eye-To-Eye, an arts mentoring program which pairs college students with learning disabilities with elementary- and middle-schoolers with similar labels. She also enjoyed performing on stage, and was rehearsing a role in a campus production of Antigone. “Jessica was amazing,” says Fawn Livingston-Gray ’95, director of the campus SEEDS program. “Passionate, idealistic, bright-eyed-a real delight to be around.” She is survived by her parents, Robert Ettenger and Angela Castellano, and by her sister, Allison.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2010

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