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Jessica Finlay ’09

A picture of Jessica Finlay

Jessica Finlay ’09 solves a physics problem in a class at Reed.

Jessica Finlay ’09, January 22, 2010, in California. Jess never revived from a coma she sank into after being struck by a car on SE Foster Road in Portland on November 1, 2009, crossing the street with roommate and friend Lindsay Leonard ’08, who died at the scene. Jess began her education at Reed intending to major in physics, and lived in the Mad Science dorm. She was involved with the campus Japanese Sword group, earned a black belt in Battojutsu, and also performed Krav Maga and capoeira. After her sophomore year, she took a leave of absence from the college in order to sort out her academic goals, and was considering a major in religion or economics. At the time of the accident, she was volunteering at a local Portland women's bookstore, In Other Words. Friend Allie MacKay ’09, who met Jess at Woodside Priory School in California, shared this observation: “She didn't let anything stand between her and happiness. She not only enthusiastically went after things she loved, but she also found ways to be happy with the things she didn't have any choice about. She didn't coast through life; she was definitely in the driver's seat.” Tim Lehnen ’08, who had known Jess since they were in elementary school together, described her as brilliant, beautiful, argumentative, and contrary. “I don't think she ever held an unconsidered opinion. She examined every belief she was confronted with, every article of common sense that we take for granted. She did not see the world the same way we do. What we took as self-evident was not self-evident to her. She would argue for and against any position, on any issue—until she was sure a position was sound—with fire in her eyes and a grin on her face. I have met no one else who could really do that. We will always love her, and always miss her.” Memorial gatherings took place in California and in the Eliot Hall chapel in February. We thank Tim and Allie for sharing their memories of Jess as well as details about her life. Survivors include her parents, and her brother and sister.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2010

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