Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 2, 2021

Sophomore runner dies at 19 of lymphoma

By NASH JENKINS | October 1, 2012

Rebecca Grande, a Hopkins sophomore and member of the women’s track & field and cross-country teams, died on Sept. 30 at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. She was diagnosed with lymphoma in February.

“The loss of any member of our community diminishes us all. Though Rebecca’s time at Johns Hopkins was brief, she touched the lives of her many Johns Hopkins friends, classmates and teammates, and by her presence, her spirit and her great promise, enriched the life of our wider university community. To Rebecca’s parents, family and friends, I offer my deepest condolences. Our thoughts are with them all during this difficult time,” President Ron Daniels said in a statement to The News-Letter.

Grande, who came to Hopkins from Lansdowne, Pa., was enrolled in the Whiting School of Engineering, though treatment procedures prevented her from attending classes this semester and portions of last semester.

Two weeks before her death, however, Grande traveled to Annapolis to cheer on her teammates in the Salty Dog Invitational meet at the United States Naval Academy.

“We were in shock. We are incredibly saddened,” Tom Calder, Director of Athletics & Recreation, said. “She was a very positive, loyal person. I just think that it’s a terrible thing to lose someone at that age.”

In the wake of their teammate’s passing, several members of the track & field and cross-country teams remembered a soft-spoken, intensely driven young woman, athlete and friend.

“The thing I really remember is that she always took the lead to run,” Holly Clarke, a junior who had run in distance events along with Grande on the track & field team, said. “She was very determined. She was quiet, but you could tell that she was always trying to improve as a runner, and that she’d do whatever she needed to get better.”

Grande ran cross-country for Hopkins in the fall of 2011 as a freshman. According to MileSplit.com, she completed her fastest 5k race in 22 minutes and 32 seconds at the annual Baltimore Metro race in Towson last September, less than a week into her first year at Hopkins.

Bobby Van Allen, who coaches both the men’s and women’s track & field and cross-country programs, recalled Grande’s passion for the sport.

“She was about the team first, herself second. That defined her more than anything else — how passionate she was about the teammates she had, and her desire to see them do well,” he said. “Even after she found out she had cancer, she was determined to be there and support the team. That’s why it’s such a hard loss for everyone else — to lose somebody that was so compassionate.”

On Monday evening, the women’s cross-country team gathered at the Ralph S. O’Connor Recreation Center for their first practice in the wake of their teammate’s passing. Van Allen began with a conversation about Grande’s death; for some, he was breaking the news.

When the team set off to run, he instructed them to do so at a pace of their choosing. When they returned, they engaged in a core exercise that Grande had a habit of leading with zeal.

A email from Boswell last night announced Grande’s death to the student body and praised Grande as a student, runner and young woman.

“Rebecca was an excellent student in the Whiting School of Engineering and a valuable member of the women’s cross country and track teams. Although her time with us here at Johns Hopkins was short, she made a lasting impact on all of us who knew her, particularly in the courage, grace and perseverance with which she faced her illness,” Boswell wrote.

The email also announced plans for Grande’s memorial service in Pennsylvania at 11 a.m. on Friday, to which the university will provide bus transportation. Buses will depart early Friday morning and return in the afternoon; to reserve a seat, Boswell wrote, an individual should place a phone call to the Ralph S. O’Connor Athletic Center.

Plans for a service at Homewood will emerge in the next week.

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