A reflection on Ashley Sandau

Ashley Sandau ran cross country for St. Bonaventure University. [Image courtesy of gobonnies.com.]

Co-editor in chief Maddie Gionet attended Wednesday night’s memorial service for alumna Ashley Sandau. She reflects on the night and what she learned about who Ashley was.

By Maddie Gionet, Co-Editor in Chief/Features Editor, @MaddieGNA

I use words for a living. And more recently, I’ve used words to tell stories and paint pictures.

But I have come to find, after tonight, that sometimes words cannot tell a story or paint a picture the way I would like them to.

Last month, 2010 and 2011 St. Bonaventure University graduate Ashley Sandau passed away after being hit by a car in California.

The St. Bonaventure family remembered her Wednesday night at 7 with a memorial service in the University Chapel.

I had the intentions of writing a news story on the event, highlighting the celebration of her, but I found myself intimidated by this task.

How does one use words to paint a picture of Ashley?

How does one do her life and her character justice?

Josh Billings, a humor writer and lecturer, once said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

Perhaps the answer to the question comes from Billings’ quote – in short words.


As Rob DeFazio, director for Campus Activities, Recreation and Leadership, said at the memorial service, Ashley always greeted everyone with a simple smile, whether she knew them or not.

DeFazio went on to say she could always be counted on to do the right thing.

She touched more lives than she probably imagined, he said.


Stephen Ross, a 2011 St. Bonaventure graduate, wrote in a piece, read by Elizabeth Moran, that Ashley welcomed him to the cross country team the moment he arrived on campus as a freshman.

Ross wrote that he remembers running the most difficult race of his life and almost giving up, only finishing it because he saw Ashley cheering him on.


Bob Macfarlane, current coach of the cross country team, said although he only met Ashley a few times, her character stood out.

He remembered Ashley interviewing him before being hired, and she asked him what he would do to improve the team.

Macfarlane said he was impressed that Ashley was more worried about the team and others than herself.


Teammates, peers and coaches alike, spoke of Ashley’s commitment to the cross country team even when injury made running difficult for her.

They spoke of her will to stay in shape during the off season and to keep working through any struggles she might have had.


A student and advisee of Denny Wilkins, professor of journalism and mass communication, Ashley inspired him to be more respectful, patient, tolerant and humble, he said.

In the past weeks, while speaking with current students about Ashley, Wilkins said he was able to see who she was – someone we can all look up to.

I did not have the opportunity to know Ashley. I wish I had. Maybe that would have helped me decide which words best describe her and the life she lived.

But maybe there is not a single word that does Ashley and her life justice.

Or maybe there is.



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