More than 500 students, faculty and friends of sophomore Jennifer Dierdorff gathered in the Smith Center Thursday night to recall fond memories of the student. The 90-minute service was followed by a candlelight vigil in Kogan Plaza.
Dierdorff, 19, of Naperville, Ill., was found dead Feb. 6 in an Arlington, Va., motel room from an apparent suicide. A member of the Alpha Phi sorority and The Hatchet’s production manager, Dierdorff left an indelible impact on her friends, professors, co-workers and loved ones.
Speakers at Dierdorff’s memorial service remembered her love of the color pink and passion for shoes. A light pink sheet was draped over a podium where mourners recalled their favorite memories of Dierdorff.
“When I first saw Jenny, she was wearing pink flip-flops,” said professor Daina Stukuls-Eglitis, who taught Dierdorff’s honors sociology class last year. “They had her sorority letters on them. She might have been wearing a pink shirt, too.”
Alpha Phi President Dana Rasmussen, wearing pink pants, spoke about Dierdorff’s commitment to Alpha Phi and the qualities that made her a friend to her 100 sorority sisters.
“They say you don’t go to college to find a groom, you go to find your bridesmaids,” Rasmussen said. “Although the groom is yet to be determined, I know Jenny would have been one of my bridesmaids. With so many friends, I wonder who would have been hers.”
Rasmussen said Dierdorff was always happy to stay up late talking about boys and other issues, and she had a knack for making people feel better when they were sad.
Many of Dierdorff’s friends and sorority sisters said the sophomore cared immensely about those around her.
“Jenny always took a minute to ask how your day was, and she listened to the answer,” said Hatchet Executive Editor Janice Cane.
Speakers at the memorial also recalled Dierdorff’s dedication to community service. She helped her sorority with its charity, Cancer Care, and was planning to have the members participate in a cancer walk.
In addition to serving as Alpha Phi’s director of finance and Hatchet production manager, Dierdorff participated in the Emerging Leaders Program and worked part-time in the office of Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.). She was also an Honors student.
As The Hatchet’s production manager, Dierdorff played an integral role in the newspaper’s publication, working many late nights designing and laying out pages.
Several Hatchet staff members remembered how production of Monday’s issues were halted so Dierdorff could watch her favorite television show, “Sex and the City,” with her friends at work for half an hour on Sunday nights.
Hatchet Editor in Chief Mosheh Oinounou said Dierdorff was always outspoken and unafraid to express her opinion about the newspaper.
“She was feisty, confident and brutally honest,” Oinounou said in remarks that opened the service. “But that was the Jenny we came to know and love.”
Dierdorff will also be remembered for her spontaneity. At the beginning of the semester, she and her roommate took a vacation to Ireland, and she surprised her 16-year-old brother by flying home for his birthday in October.
Dierdorff last visited her suburban Chicago home over winter vacation. Her mother, Nancy Dierdorff, said they spent a great deal of time together during the three-week break.
“We did all the mother-daughter things together,” said Nancy Dierdorff in an interview Thursday afternoon from her Naperville home. “We went away for the weekend, we did her nails … We spent the whole time together.”
Nancy Dierdorff said her daughter was very active as a high school student, participating in Model U.N., student government and cross-country track, among other things.
“You name it, and she pretty much did it,” said Nancy Dierdorff, adding, “She was a shining light that isn’t there any more.”
After the service, which featured about 15 speakers, freshman Marni Hahn, who attended the event, described Dierdorff as a “guiding star.”
“I came here not knowing anything,” Hahn said, “but from the second you meet her, she inspires you to be the best you can be. The values she taught me were immense. No words can measure how amazing she was.”