Sylvia Bingham ’09, a Yale graduate who was passionate about social justice and the environment, died Tuesday morning. She was 22.
Bingham was en route to her job in Cleveland shortly before 9 a.m. when a truck collided with her bicycle. She passed away at St. Vincent Charity Hospital soon after. The truck driver did not stop, but police located him that afternoon using information provided by witnesses. No charges had been filed as of Tuesday afternoon.
A California native, Bingham moved to Cleveland after graduating to work at the organization Hard Hatted Women, which helps to lift women out of poverty. She described herself on LinkedIn, a networking Web site, as being passionate about eliminating urban poverty and creating job opportunities in the skilled trades.
“Eventually I’d like to see urban, sustainable agriculture generate high-wage, high-skilled green jobs in our cities,” she wrote.
It was this passion that flowed out of Bingham in all aspects of her life. Spending long hours working at the Yale Farm, pursuing a double major in French and sociology, or cooking for her friends, Bingham was an inspiration to those around her. As her friend Tommy Crawford ’09 described, she “rallied others around her to service” and encouraged them to “look at the community they live in and see how they can help or get involved.”
“Being with Sylvia, being near her, was a privilege, a gift, an event,” Adam Gardner ’09 wrote in an e-mail. “For some reason, she chose to come into our lives, and we will never forget her spirit, her beauty, and the generosity that inspired her to share herself so completely with us.”
As a student, Bingham exhibited a deep commitment to her curricular and extra-curricular pursuits. For her senior project about public housing on Dixwell Avenue and New Urbanist planning, she conducted extensive original research. Professor Hannah Brueckner, the director of undergraduate studies for sociology who got to know Bingham during her senior year, described her as a “fearless intellectual, a skilled field worker, and a committed activist.”
Bingham believed that people could make a difference in the world and devoted her life to social justice and environmental issues, her college roommate Lucia Diaz-Martin ’09 said.
She was described as kind-hearted and effervescent, someone who cared deeply for her friends and family. Bingham would drop anything for her friends, Anna Parks ’09 said.
“She showed up on my birthday with a box of dainty little madeleines that she had baked for me,” Parks said. “I think that cookie and that act represent her persona perfectly: she was bursting with creativity and was a teeny, quirky fashionista.”
Another college roommate, Molly Fischer ’09, said Bingham made their apartment at 67 Edgewood Ave “the coziest little home in the world” last year. A talented chef with a colorful palette, Bingham enjoyed throwing dinner parties for her friends.
“We had the best house meals and dinner parties, and Sylvia was the one who was behind all that, lurking in the kitchen,” Fischer said. “You couldn’t ask for someone better to live with than Sylvia.”
To all those who crossed her path, Bingham took time to get to know the people around her and could connect with all types of people. “Sylvia was a beautifully unique girl with an accepting heart and open mind,” Josh Helmrich ’09 wrote in an e-mail. “She was at ease in any crowd, and could get along with anyone (while being loved by everyone).”
Timothy Dwight College Dean John Loge, Bingham’s dean, said Bingham was a memorable student and will be sorely missed. “I remember Sylvia very well,” he said. “She is the kind of person one remembers: spirited, independent, lively, sassy, intelligent. She was really the light of life itself.”
Danika Fears contributed reporting.