“We should feel sorrow, but not sink under its oppression.” – Confucius

Whitney and her dog Rosie.

Whitney and her dog Rosie.

The tragic death of Whitney Joy Engler has profoundly traumatized our school and community. In our tributes to Whitney and her family, words alone cannot fully express our loss and pain. Her death was heartbreaking and beyond our worst nightmares, making us numb and confused with grief. We will never truly understand how this type of catastrophic event can happen to such a bright and talented person like Whitney. She will forever be part of our collective story.

Whitney, like many of our students, dreamed of becoming a veterinarian at a very early age. She had an insatiable desire to understand and help animals. Whitney was engaged in all aspects of her life, embracing each opportunity to learn; she constantly sought to expand her knowledge of animals, their behavior and biology. She was a bright star and a STAR student seeking out opportunities to build on her interest in animal behavior. Whitney wanted to understand the human-animal bond, a bond that she felt so deeply with her menagerie of pets. A compassionate and passionate student, she sought out knowledge like a sponge.

As we grieve, know also that Whitney and her family would want us to continue to honor her through our good works in society as trained and compassionate professionals. It is my hope that each of you can dedicate yourselves to honor her by living your lives to the fullest. She would want you to embrace those who love and support you, the way she embraced life. Whitney is and will always be part of our shared journey. She will come back to us in our memories, visiting us in our quiet moments—perhaps in the presence of animals or in a solitary moment of reflection. She will remain forever in our hearts, reminding us of her compassion and love of animals and people.

I am very proud of our community of students, staff, faculty, and the many volunteers who came together to honor the life of Whitney Joy Engler. In the coming weeks, we will honor her with a posthumous DVM degree and through a memorial scholarship established in her name. Your compassion, empathy, and kindness during this past week revealed who we are as a community and highlighted the values we should demonstrate on a daily basis. Whitney’s middle name was “Joy” and I would like each of you to remember the joy she brought to us, as you think of her impact on the people and animals she loved. I urge you to use your sorrow not as a burden, but as a tool to recommit to those you love and your work. In doing so, you will help our community and yourself heal.