Speeches & Commentary

Remarks from vigil in memory of Orli Sheffey ‘24

Welcome students, staff, and friends to this coming together in remembrance of Orli Sheffey.

We’ve each spent hours upon hours, days upon days and years upon years planning for what is next.  Our diligence in laying down these plans brought us each into this Washington University community.  Whether it’s charting paths for your studies, or your scholarship, or your responsibilities as leaders, you’ve prepared.  Yet, no planning can prepare us for the devastation of a loss like this.

Members of the WashU community gathered for a vigil to remember Orli Sheffey on February 14, 2022.

To lose a daughter, a sister, a friend, a classmate, or, in my case, a student, is a grief that one never wants to imagine, nor can properly be imagined.

Orli was a bright light. Her gift of composing her ideas into thoughtful and persuasive prose challenged us each to be better and do better.  This semester I was fortunate enough to have Orli in my Free Speech on Campus class.  Orli’s curiosity and readiness to explore our First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of expression is the magic that makes teaching so fulfilling.  It is, indeed, the magic that keeps me so committed to higher education.

This weekend I was able to speak with Orli’s parents, Steven and Timna, and share, with heaviest of heart, how very special it was to know Orli and how truly and deeply sorry I am – that we all are – for this unimaginable loss.

Grief has a way of equalizing us all.  Today, I humbly stand with you, saddened and heartbroken.  Take care of each other, take care of yourselves, but most of all allow yourself to be cared for.  When you are ready, may the memories of Orli and the moments that she touched your lives be a blessing.   To Orli’s parents, Steven and Timna, and to her sisters Ariel and Ayelet, you are in our thoughts and prayers.

To share more about Orli and the lasting impact she made on our campus, I’d like to welcome Dr. Anna Gonzalez.