EUGENE, Ore. -- University of Oregon faculty, staff and students joined well-wishing community members in the Mills International Center lounge Wednesday evening for a solemn celebration of the life and legacy of beloved student, teammate, co-worker and friend Alexis Pennington.
Pennington, a University senior and business administration major, died of meningoencephalitis on March 6 at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield. The 22-year-old Marist High School graduate was a member of the University's water polo team and International Business and Economics Club, and had a great passion for skiing and outdoor activities. She had worked at the Outdoor Program on campus for the last two years after transferring from Gonzaga University in Washington.
A smiling photograph of Pennington greeted attendees just inside the lounge's doors, her deep blue eyes staring intently forward as if to greet her arriving friends and family members.
Despite dozens of teary eyes, the service was intended to recall joyful memories of the deceased student and members of several campus groups in which she was involved took turns at the podium to share their most sentimental memories of her personality.
University Associate Director of Student Life Sheryl Eyster spoke of Pennington's great accomplishments and lasting impressions as a cherished peer.
"To say Alexis was a great student on campus (is) just not enough," Eyster said. "We were meant to be touched by her majestic enthusiasm for the outdoors. We've lost the benefit of Alexis' enthusiasm at a time when we need it most."
Neil Cronkrite, a University economics major and IBEC president, befriended Pennington throughout their collaboration in the club, and spoke at the ceremony about her emphatic membership.
"She brought humor to everything," Cronkrite said. "She really humanized our club."
University women's water polo team coordinator Emma Carella, a family and human services major, also spoke to the somber assembly, sharing her memories of competing side-by-side with Pennington.
"It was one small aspect of her college experience and she always made us feel like number one," Carella said. "Her presence will always be with women's water polo."
Pennington's younger brother, Jack, a University sophomore, and her parents, John and Paula, were also present at the austere celebration.
"It's nice to learn of all the involvement she had at the University of Oregon," John Pennington said. "I hope you all go on to have very happy and successful lives and remember somewhere down the road your friend Alexis."
A scholarship has been set up in Pennington's name through the University of Oregon Foundation, and the University has determined that her degree requirements have been met, and has awarded her a posthumous degree.