As news of Marina Keegan’s ’12 death last Saturday spread through the Yale community and digital media this week, Keegan’s friends, family and others who read her writing were working to share her story and honor her memory.
Although Keegan’s memorial is scheduled for Saturday, the impact of her death has already prompted much action to commemorate her life. Keegan’s parents, Kevin and Tracy, said they are establishing a memorial fund to sponsor a Yale College prize for “excellence in playwriting,” while David Corson-Knowles ’03, who did not know Keegan personally but read her work on the News’ website, created a fund that aims to endow a staff position within the University to help students pursue careers beyond finance and consulting. And Keegan’s writings — particularly her final column, “The Opposite of Loneliness” — have gained attention worldwide as the story of her death spread through national media outlets and online social media.
“I hope that [Marina] is remembered for her love of the University and all it had to offer,” Kevin Keegan said. “It allowed her to develop her ability to use her skills to become a voice and spokesperson for some of the things she cared about.”
Word of Keegan’s death spread across the Internet early this week, gaining attention on Facebook and Twitter. Keegan’s final column, a piece from the special print edition of the News distributed at last week’s commencement exercises, was published to yaledailynews.com in the wake of her death. Since then, the column has been read over 1 million times — the most views of any single article since the News began publishing online. Her death and writing have been covered by news outlets around the country, including the New York Times and the New Yorker, both of which had previously published Keegan’s work.
Even as the widespread media coverage has elicited tributes and remembrances from around the world, members of the Yale community have worked to honor Keegan’s life through the creation of memorial funds.
Kevin and Tracy Keegan said they established the Marina Keegan Memorial Fund in conjunction with Yale’s English Department, with the hope of endowing an annual undergraduate prize for “excellence in playwriting.” This prize, Tracy Keegan said, will stand as testament to the “power that words have to move and reshape our world.”
Meanwhile, Corson-Knowles said he created the Artichoke Fund — named after Keegan’s WEEKEND cover, “Even artichokes have doubts,” which gained national attention for its critique of Yale students’ career choices — to help Yalies find “truly fulfilling careers,” a message underlying Keegan’s column.
Though Corson-Knowles said Tuesday he has not yet communicated with the Keegan family, he added that he intends to collaborate with them in the future. While he did not know Keegan personally, Corson-Knowles said he was “so deeply moved by her writing” that he hopes to create a lasting testament to her fight against Wall Street firms’ recruitment practices. He said he felt it was fitting for a person as multifaceted as Keegan to be remembered in multiple ways.
The Artichoke Fund has already raised roughly $1,500 from about a dozen donors, Corson-Knowles said in a Wednesday email. Kevin Keegan said his family is aware of the Artichoke Fund, and that they are interested in working with Corson-Knowles on the project.
Others in the Yale community are honoring Keegan’s life by creating a collection of her writing for her family.
Vivian Yee ’12, a former editor in chief of the News, said in an email Wednesday that she and some of Keegan’s other friends have approached her former professors and classmates to gather the many essays and stories she wrote. Because Keegan often sought feedback on her writing, Yee said the group has contacted many of Keegan’s friends, who are likely to have “all kinds of drafts in their inboxes.”
Yee said the group hopes to give Keegan’s family members bound copies of her work, and to circulate the material to a wider audience, though their plans have not yet been decided.
A memorial service for Keegan will take place at the First Parish Church in her native Wayland, Mass., at 2 p.m. Saturday. Following the memorial, Keegan’s body will be cremated, and the ashes will be spread over Cape Cod Bay, her mother said.
In a Wednesday afternoon email to the Yale College community, Yale College Dean Mary Miller said there will be “opportunities later for people to come together” if they are unable to attend the service this weekend.
Keegan was killed when the 1997 Lexus ES300 sedan she was in, driven by Michael Gocksch ’12, drifted off Route 6 heading eastbound near Dennis, Mass., hit a side guardrail and rolled over at least twice before coming to rest on the road, the Massachusetts State Police said. An investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing, a police spokesperson said Wednesday.
Police said both Keegan and Gocksch were wearing seatbelts and that the vehicle’s speed was “not a factor in the severity of the crash.” Keegan’s parents said Tuesday that Gocksch told them he fell asleep at the wheel. Gocksch told the Keegans that Marina was reclined flat in her seat, asleep, at the time of the accident, they added.
“My hope is that she was in one of her dreams that she often told us about, that were so vivid and wonderful, and were the basis of some of her writing,” Kevin Keegan said. “She just was so imaginative and my hope is that she never woke up.”
Gocksch could not be reached for comment this week.