Kristen Stitt, an undergraduate student at UC Irvine and a member of the school’s Alpha Phi sorority chapter, recently passed away on June 28, 2011 at the age of 22. A memorial was held Tuesday, July 6 at the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton to commemorate her life.
Stitt, a political science and international studies double major, was diagnosed with lymphoma earlier in March. Her friends remember her as an active, joyful and kind-hearted individual who was heavily involved on campus and in the community. Stitt has participated in UCI Global Studies and the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), an organization promoting awareness on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
To the people she knew, Stitt is remembered for her infectious laughter, her generous and optimistic personality and, according to her friends, her self-implemented “grandma” bedtime of 10 p.m.
“Kristen was a person who lived her life in such a way that, if you were to take a picture of her at random, it would probably be a really awesome picture.” said Jeannine Yap, a fellow Alpha Phi sister and close friend of Stitt. “She lived life to the fullest, and all but forced those around her to do the same. Spontaneity was her mantra. She was fearless, she loved to learn, and she was an inspiration to those around her.”
Yap recounts meeting Stitt on the first day of college together, an encounter that, she claims, wouldchange her life forever.
Stitt left her mark on countless people around her. Golnaz Alibeigi, a close friend with whom Stitt had studied abroad in Barcelona, recalled, “Kristen always pushed me to go out, never be lazy, take advantage of every opportunity and grab life by the horns.”
In the summer of 2010, Stitt along with several of her fellow students traveled to the Middle East to learn about the Palestinian-Israel conflict as part of the Olive Tree Initiative. According to her friend Nesma Tawil, a fourth-year double major in political science and international relations, Stitt took this opportunity to turn the trip into an adventure and a life-changing experience for everyone around her.
“I remember a group of us were walking along the beach at 3 a.m. in Tel Aviv,” Tawil recounts. “Suddenly, Kristen, being the spontaneous kid that she was, announced it the perfect time to jump into the Dead Sea. Hesitant at first, the group watched as Kristen quickly jumped in, and was left with no other choice but to follow.”
UC Irvine professor Daniel Wehrenfennig and director of the Olive Tree Initiative remembers Stitt for her compassion and her enthusiasm toward motivating friends and peers to participate.
“She was a student in my class and more importantly a friend,” Wehrenfennig said. “Regardless of what was going on in her own life, Kristen would reach out to others and make sure that they were welcomed into the group. When we came back to the U.S. and debated who should be the Social Chair for the Olive Tree Initiative, there was no question that everyone wanted it to be Kristen. She was the heart of OTI and I will miss her very much.”
Never settling for anything short of excellence, Stitt was a very ambitous and self-driven leader. She was determined to make an impact on the world.
“I have always been impressed with Kristen’s hard work ethic and curiosity of new things and people,” added Paymaun Rezai, a fellow OTI participant and friend. “I will always cherish and never forget the life lessons she has left for us all to master.”
According to Polly Ellis and Allison Deane, Kristen Stitt’s roommates, Stitt inside the home was no different from the high-spirited and generous individual she was to the world.
“Kristen always brought a smile to my face,” shared Deane,
Stitt is one of countless victims diagnosed annually with lymphoma. Lymphoma itself is a cancer that begins in lymphatic cells of the victim’s immune system. Statistics from the U.S. National Cancer Institute estimate that over 74,030 people in the United States have been diagnosed with lymphoma and over 21,530 have died from the condition in 2010.
Nevertheless, for the people she knew in life, Kristen Stitt has left an unforgettable impact, a testament to her positive qualities.
“Kristen knew the meaning of life.” said her friend Tawil, “I’d like to think that as the reason why God took her so early. She accomplished what she needed to and now she’s off on a new and exciting adventure. She will always be my little friend, the strongest and most genuine spirit I have ever known.”