Penn community members gathered on Friday evening for a vigil honoring the life of College junior Sarah Katz who died last week.
Katz’s friends, roommates, and members of Katz's sorority spoke at the vigil, which began at 7 p.m. in front of the LOVE statue. Katz died on Sept. 10 at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center at 21 years old, according to an email by Interim Vice Provost for University Life Tamara Greenfield King to Wharton undergraduates.
Those close to Katz covered the statue with photographs of Katz, and filled the spaces between the letters with roses. Katz’s friends encouraged students to also leave flowers around campus in spots where they shared memories with her.
Organizers of the vigil distributed candles and green ribbons to attendees in honor of Katz’s favorite color, and Katz's friends spoke about their love for her and told stories about their favorite memories with her.
College senior Eva Faenza, Katz’s mentor in the Sigma Kappa sorority, spoke about her close friendship with Katz.
“Before Sarah, I was very unsure about Penn and wanted to leave, but Sarah made me love it here,” Faenza said. “I just loved spending time with her. Whenever I was with her, I was never sad, and I think that's important to remember right now.”
Faenza also spoke about Katz’s involvement on campus and her ambition in and out of the classroom.
In addition to working as a research assistant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Katz served as a membership coordinator and CPR training project chair in the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education. She was also a student leader in the John Marshall Pre-Law Honor Society, a member of Penn Hillel, and the social chair of Sigma Kappa.
“Sarah was one of the most accomplished 21-year-olds I have ever met,” Faenza said.
College sophomore Kevin Bina led attendees in the Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer traditionally said following a death.
“The prayer itself never mentions the concept of death, but instead reiterates the greatness of God,” Bina said. “During these trying times, it's important to remember that Sarah's spirit lives on through all of us.”
Wharton junior Ria Uppalapati described Katz as her first and best friend at Penn.
“She had the bubbliest personality and biggest heart out of anyone I have ever known, and there wasn’t a day that she didn’t put a huge smile on my face,” Uppalapati said.
Katz’s family — Jill, Michael, and Dana Katz — have set up a fundraiser through the American Heart Association as a tribute to her “passion and commitment to community health.” As of Sept. 17, over 360 individuals have donated to the fundraiser and over $27,000 has been raised in Katz’s name.
Members of the Penn community remained at the vigil after the speeches to place flowers, photos, and candles along the LOVE statue as “Blessed” by Thomas Rhett — one of Katz’s favorite songs — played from speakers surrounding the statue.
“She always was so full of life and so energetic and that's how I want to remember her,” Faenza said. “I want to remember her for all those good times and everything she meant to me.”