November 13, 1995 – April 15, 2020
This page honors the life of Eliana Winterbauer-Light and the extraordinary impact she made on the people who knew her at Marquette. During this time of social distancing, when family, friends, and colleagues cannot gather in person to remember her, we hope this page can hold a space at Marquette for Eliana’s memory. Please send pictures, tributes, and memories to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will add them as soon as they’re received.
Eliana graduated from Marquette’s College of Arts and Sciences and the University Honors Program in December, 2017 with a Psychology major and Philosophy and French minors. During her years at Marquette Eliana was deeply committed to justice for all. At Marquette she was Co-President of the feminist activist organization Empowerment and a peer writing tutor at the Ott Memorial Writing Center. In summer 2016 she was a member of Sarah Gendron’s summer program in Rwanda, and with Gabby May she completed an Honors research project called “HIV/AIDS: The Unseen Predator of the Rwandan Genocide.” After taking Theresa Tobin’s Honors class on incarceration, which she described as her favorite class at Marquette, Eliana worked as an intern at Project Return, which had a profound impact on her and continued to shape her commitments through the rest of her life. Eliana will be dearly missed by her devoted family and friends and by all who were lucky enough to know her.
In honor of Eliana, her family and friends are exploring the possibility of a scholarship in her name for students working for justice for incarcerated people. If you are interested in contributing to this effort, please contact email@example.com.
Summer as Project RETURN – Eliana Winterbauer-Light
From the Project Return Newsletter, Fall 2017
I only wish I could have stayed longer. The brief period of my life that I spent at Project RETURN is filled with many moments that I will long recall in all the roles that I will occupy in my life as a student, a psychologist, a family member, and community member, to name a few. I came to this internship in June with only two limited forms of experience working with individuals who have been incarcerated. I was fortunate enough to take an honors seminar at Marquette that had both students from Marquette and students from the Milwaukee Women’s Correctional Center. It rapidly became my favorite class at Marquette. My other experience was mostly vicarious. My dad was an impassioned public defense lawyer for 35 years until the month before he passed away last autumn. I was grateful for this natural segway to continue his work in another form that would inspirit my persisting connection with him.
From canvasing throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, to participating in the weekly women’s group, and to helping out on office days when I would converse about any given topic with the Project RETURN staff members…I have cherished the relationships I have formed and the greater sense of closeness to Milwaukee I have reached. I’ve learned what it means to be invested in the well-being of others, whether they are in our office, neighborhood, or city. I witnessed numerous examples when the Project RETURN crew’s care and concern did not end with their clients or with the end of their workday. Rather, the care and concern was extended to each other, all they encountered, and in their lives outside of Project RETURN. I know this is only the beginning of my growth in community work and surely not the end of my involvement with this organization.
Pictures, Tributes and Memories
Ellie, we were friends for years, but we truly met each other in June of 2018. When we decided to travel Europe together, I came to appreciate your life energy and enthusiasm, as well as your kindness and thoughtfulness towards every person we met. Every conversation was interesting, every experience was meaningful. We showed each other how to live fearlessly in the moment and dance with the ebb and flow of life.
We fell in love with each other that summer, and that feeling persisted up until the last moments we spent together. We had plans for the foreseeable future, but I’m glad I could be there with you in the last few months of your life. Our relationship was a true gift.
You didn’t depart without also leaving your mark on every person who was fortunate enough to cross paths with you. In your life I realized how much I loved you, and in your death I’ve realized how much the world loved you. Your passions for social justice, mindful living, and sustainable practices were just some of the details that made your imprint on others so indelible. I never heard about half of the feats you accomplished, which is a testament to your wonderful humility.
Falling in love with you was the easiest thing I’ve ever done, and saying goodbye is the hardest thing I hope to ever do. Thank you for opening my heart and teaching me how to love.
Eliana you were so impactful on my sense of community and belonging at Marquette. I knew you as the president of Empowerment, but you became so much more to me.
When I was feeling alone and lost freshman year you became a resource for me. You were a friend to me when I had so few. You organized our feminist club into so much and you fought for the rights of EVERYONE and you fought until the day of your death. You were such a kind soul and a good friend to me. You advocated for me to be an e-board member as a freshman and supported my presidency the year you left. I was inspired and always hoped to be half the president you were of our org. More than that you were so incredibly kind to everyone. We need more of that in the world. You are loved and you are missed.
Below: Gender & Mass Incarceration seminar (HOPR 2953H) with Milwaukee Women's Correctional Center in Spring 2017; class photo after a talk by Angela Y. Davis, author of Freedom Is a Constant Struggle
Director, Ott Memorial Writing Center and Professor of English
I got to know Eliana through her work as a peer writing tutor in the Ott Memorial Writing Center from Fall 2016 until her graduation in December 2017. During those three semesters, she worked with more than 125 writers across campus. In their post-conference feedback, writers often spoke of how kind and welcoming Eliana was (describing her as “helpful and friendly” and “super sweet”); they also regularly praised her ability to engage them in conversation that provided the strategies and motivation to undertake significant revisions: “The amount of questions she asked always kept me thinking and was very helpful. She made me realize information that I did not see before.”
Eliana was also selected to serve as a Course-Embedded Tutor (working with writers in anthropology and criminology courses) and served as a mentor for other new tutors. Eliana was a fiercely intelligent and incredibly warm person. She was an engaged, invested listener. She was a beautiful writer. She was a relentless advocate for social justice. Her laugh could light you up, and she was generous with her time. The last time I saw Eliana (as Marquette eased into spring break and later entered into quarantine), we sat together in the Ott and talked for an hour and a half. She had big plans—for herself and for the world. I will miss her tremendously, but I’m grateful for the time that I was able to spend with her. She was luminous.
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Eliana was a remarkable person: a student who made teaching an absolute joy, and a person who made others better for knowing her. She was my student in three courses, but she was also my teacher. I learned from her that boldness could be gentle and that creativity often takes courage. I was inspired by her empathy, her powerful intellect, and her passion for justice. Eliana lived the values she claimed to care about. She used every opportunity in her education to grow, and to challenge herself and others to live deeply and with a fierce commitment to justice and love. Eliana was also the “glue” of a classroom setting: she brought the class together, made people feel welcome and important, and made us all laugh. I often met with Eliana outside of class too, over coffee or lunch, to talk about life, poetry, and the future. I always left our conversations with more to think about, and often also with a new poem or song to enjoy. I will miss her, and I am grateful to have known her and shared in the gift of her life.
Marquette University Biomedical Sciences '19
Marquette University Physician Assistant Studies '20
Eliana, you took me under your wing before we even met, excited at the mere prospect of connecting with and mentoring someone new. Surprised and bewildered at the time, I now wonder how I was so lucky to receive your unconditional love and friendship these past five years. Every time we were together, I walked away with a memorable story, something to think about, or a full heart (but often all three). As my friend, you pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to grow emotionally and intellectually. With you leading, we found meaning and spirit in the most seemingly mundane things. You taught me how to be mindful, intentional, grateful, passionate. In anticipation of every encounter we had, I strove to have something to share that would make you proud. You have left me better than who I'd been when you found me.
As everything else you were (which are too diverse and vast to list here), you dazzled the world with your unapologetic and unwavering efforts in helping everything and everyone you encountered. You danced through life spreading equal parts serene kindness and vigorous passion for justice and equality. We all waited in eager anticipation to see what you would do, what change you would create. And though you weren't able to see life through in the ways we anticipated, you have embedded a profound and lasting mark on countless people. In both life and death, you serve as a role model and inspiration for leading a remarkable, impactful life. You are missed dearly. You are loved eternally.
Digital Media and English, May 2018
Eliana was the first friend I made at Marquette. We were randomly placed in a "quad" together with two other Honors students in Straz. We became a sort of duo, and our personalities complemented each other perfectly. We shared a love of music, comedy, cats, and trouble. We chose to be roommates again our sophomore year and remained close throughout our college career, forming too many memories to count. I'm certain that my first two years at Marquette would have been isolating and lonely if it had not been for Eliana. I'm also certain my life would look much different had it not been for her.
I've never known anyone quite like Eliana. From a philosophical or even practical standpoint, it seems impossible for a human to be all good, but that's what she was. She did so much for the community and for causes she believed in, never for recognition or to make a show of it, but purely because she wanted to. She saw that the world needed fixing, and took it upon herself to fix it. She always saw the beauty in the world and in the individual, something I never quite understood but admired all the same. She was ridiculously compassionate and knew how to really, truly listen. Every guy I knew was in love with her at some point in time.
She was far more talented than she gave herself credit for. Poetry and music came naturally to her. She also just had a talent for people, that much is clear.
Eliana was the kind of person to make you want to be a better human.
Arts & Sciences: Computer Science, 2018
Eliana was one of my first friends at Marquette, and I am incredibly grateful that our friendship has only grown through the years. Never before had someone made me question so much about myself and the world. I loved getting a coffee with Eliana because I knew there would be no more than two minutes of small talk before we dove off a cliff into some deep topic such as social inequality, our views on religion, or how we wanted to grow as individuals. I could always expect three things out of a conversation with Eliana: there would never be a dull moment, I would walk away with a lot to think about, and it would always last longer than I planned.
When making plans with Eliana, I learned quickly to set a timer about 45 minutes before I was actually available because she was notorious for running late all the time. It took me a while to realize this was because Eliana was having these deep, emotional, helpful conversations with every soul who dare cross her path.
Eliana found a way to improve the lives of others while working to find her own way through this world, a level of compassion and thoughtfulness that I have not found anywhere else in my life. Eliana’s positive impact on her community will live on, but it hurts to think about how much more she had to give to this world. I am honored to have been a part of Eliana’s life. Eliana, thank you for all you have taught me, all the love, and all of the laughs. See you on the other side, friend.
Global Village Tributes to Eliana
We write for the whole community of Global Village 2016-2017 International Exchange students. We had the opportunity and great luck to know Eliana, who was an ambassador there. With great sadness we heard of her passing away and a few of us wanted to leave a few words in her memory. We would like to let people know that she was loved, not only by her community, but by people all around the world!
International student from France at Marquette, Fall 2016 - Spring 2017
“Dear Eliana, as a member of Global Village, it is with sadness and shock that I am writing these words. I am happy to have met you and shared this incredible experience back in 2016.Your smile and kindness will not be forgotten. May you rest in peace.”
“Love you from the bottom of my heart. You are one of the kindest, warmest, lovely, and bravest person I ever know. Miss you and hope you rest in peace.”
“Eliana, you were so sweet, loving, and thoughtful. You cared so deeply and advocated so fiercely for the rights of others. The world has truly lost one of its best. May you rest in peace.”
“Dear Eliana, you were one of the kindest people I have met during my time in the US. You were so genuine and cared a lot about the people around you. You will be deeply missed.”
“Eliana, you were always thinking about how you can help other people before taking care of yourself. You taught me that feminism was important and you were a role model for a lot of women. I was fascinated by how you were determined to learn new cultures and new languages such as french. We will never Forget everything you brought to Iris and I when we arrived in the US, you were a Perfect guide and friend. I will deeply miss you.”
“Dear Eliana, During the moments we shared together, I always thought about how kind, smart and young independent woman you were. Thank you for what we shared together. I hope you will find peace and somehow happiness. Au revoir ma chère Eliana. Reposes en paix.”
“Eliana emanated positivity and courage. She worked to make campus and the world a better and more equitable place. Her commitment to justice and equality was unmatched. She had such a calming presence and a determination that rubbed off on everyone else around her. She fought to make campus a safer and more inclusive place, one that would be free of discrimination, sexual assault and gender-based harassment and violence. We should all strive to be more like Eliana, to not let the world around us damper our spirit or our drive. Rest in power Eliana, we love and miss you.”
Kaitlyn Angrove, Political Science and Gender Studies, 2017
“I wouldn't say that I knew Eliana extremely well, but every time I encountered her I always felt that she gave her full attention to the moment, whether that be a full-on deep conversation or a genuine greeting passing in the halls of Global Village. Her passionate, caring spirit was evident in how she carried herself with joy and depth. She was one of those people you just know will do great things because of how intentionally and attentively they live. Even though her years were cut short, her impact was certainly not. Rest in peace Eliana, your memory lives on and you are greatly missed.”
Clare Casey, Spanish & Education '17, Foreign language, literature, & cultures '19
“Eliana, you always cared so deeply for others. We first met on a MAP trip to Chicago in 2015. Oh, that trip was an adventure. Our paths continued to cross as we shared classes together and we both lived in Global Village. I always valued our conversations on the way “home” from class. Rest In Peace, Eliana!”
Grace Heimerdinger-Baake, Psychology ‘16
“Dear Eliana, We have shared few moments together but I recall this moment during the Milwaukee night: eating s'mores, speaking in French, simply having fun and it was great! A kind, caring and sweet person like you will be missed. This is truly unfair… but I hope you rest in peace. Goodbye Eliana.”
““Eliana”...There’s a nice ring to it. I always thought so. But beyond the word, the wonderful human being created the memory of Eliana for all of us, international students, which had the opportunity to know you, for a semester, for a year. Now it is of course with the greatest sadness that I shall realize, that, for the rest of my days, that shall be only a memory. Oh! a memory like no others, a vivid memory. A smiling face through the flares of a bonfire.
The gentle roll over the “R” of an American trying to speak French. The warmth of the presence of the most caring person I have ever met. All of this shall remain inside me, inside us, and bring us comfort when we think about you. A legacy of sort. And even though I feel lost right now, even though I imagined to suggest you to come live in Paris (where I had the chance to see you again) if ever you had enough with the US, I shall cherish this memory of you, as the best gift you could give the whole humanity.
Many have praised your selfless involvement for those who have the less. I shall only remember that you were part of this “global” community we shared, and as such, at least, you “ain’t ever getting older”.”