Remembering Rachel Swett

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Rachel Swett, CC ’11, passed away this summer. She actively experienced life, unwilling to let it simply wash over her. Rachel radiated warmth, and constantly captured her colorful world on film. Last night, friends and family of Rachel gathered in Faculty House to share stories of her life.

A friend from her high school, the Brearley School, told us that Rachel was an expert gift-giver. On the friend’s 21st birthday, Rachel bought The Idiot’s Guide to Personal Finance in Your 20’s and 30’s, The Big Book of Cocktail recipes (with a note that read “cake is for wussies, happy birthday”) and a giant stuffed zebra toy, which now resides in the friend’s EC suite.

We learned that at her first COOP meeting freshman year, Rachel convinced a friend that they should wear long underwear with shorts on top, bandanas, and wool socks pulled up to their calves. Everyone else wore t-shirts and jeans.

Science of Psychology veterans will remember one extra credit assignment that asked students to create a socially unacceptable experience and record the results. Rachel organized an “Annex New Mexico” rally along 5th Avenue, complete with posters and flyers. One of the passers-by she tried to convert was a Columbia psychology professor.

Friends spoke about trips to Rachel’s family home close to Columbia. One friend had booked a flight home on Christmas Eve, and Rachel insisted that she come to the Swett home for a Christmas dinner. Rachel loved holidays, and helped organize a Thanksgiving dinner in May, New Zealand’s fall, while she was abroad there. One friend said, “Rachel, it is always Christmas when I am with you.”

When Rachel and her roommate had mice in their room sophomore year, Rachel suggested that she bring her cat from home to patrol the hallways.

A sister from Rachel’s sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, recalled a memorable sorority formal. Rachel allowed the friend to do her hair for the night. During the formal, Rachel went up to her friend and admitted, “I look like a Christmas poodle.” The friend asked Rachel if she wanted her to fix it. Rachel said no, since it gave her something to talk about.

Rachel’s aunt told us that Rachel was the flower girl at her wedding. Rachel refused to wear her dress shoes, and insisted on wearing her red Keds throughout the ceremony. So she did.

Dean Moody-Adams quoted theologian Forrest Church’s sermon “Love and Death.” All our stories end in the middle, she paraphrased, with unfinished stories piled high. Rachel’s story, Moody-Adams reminded us, is interwoven with so many other stories. That unfinished business, she said, might be carried out by us.

Rachel will be missed.

Columbia’s resources are available for support in coping with Rachel’s death or other difficult situations. Contact the Center for Student Advising at 212-854-6378, Counseling and Psychological Services at 212-854-2878, the Office of the University Chaplain at 212-854-1493, Nightline at 212-854-7777, or Residential Programs at at 212-854-6805.



  1. Anonymous  

    What a wonderful young woman. I wish I had the chance to meet her, but I'm sure she is missed and loved by many.

  2. Anonymous

    again with the tiny thumbnail!

  3. gah

    what a wonderful person. i'm graduated and across the world, and my heart goes out to Rachel, her family, and friends.

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