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Remembering the senior’s kindness, compassion, and humor, more than 75 students, faculty, and friends gathered in the Dunster House courtyard Friday afternoon for a memorial service honoring Courtney S. Blair ’19.
Blair, a Dunster House resident, died suddenly in July at her home in Georgia. Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana described her as “a beloved member of the College community” in a July 6 email sent to undergraduates.
At the memorial, students took turns sharing memories of Blair, ranging from late nights spent with her in the Dunster dining hall to chance encounters with her on the street that turned into close friendships. Their stories revealed the lasting impact that Blair had on everyone she knew.
Above all, speakers remembered her kindness. Multiple people recalled her bright smile, and infectious laugh. They said Blair always knew what to say to cheer them up when they were having a tough day, and could transition seamlessly from a serious philosophical discussion to cracking a hilarious joke.
In a written statement, Honey A. Holman ’19, one of Blair’s blockmates, said she is “grateful to have had the opportunity to remember and celebrate Courtney in Dunster House, where we built our friendship.”
Blair’s parents also attended the service and her mother, Fiona Anderson-Blair ’88, spoke about Courtney. She shared stories about Courtney’s empathy and humor, and urged attendees to feel grateful that they got to know Courtney rather than dwelling on their sadness about her death.
Her freshman proctor Dean Lee recalled that she always found a way to bring the entryway together during her first year at Harvard — even when she mimicked his gestures and got her friends to do the same. He recalled that, after a few minutes of her impression, the whole entryway was in hysterics, and he couldn’t help but laugh, too.
Midway through the service, some of Blair’s friends performed an emotional rendition of the Fleetwood Mac song “Landslide.”
Inside a common room at Dunster, more than 50 pictures of Blair lined the walls. A slideshow of photographs of her played on repeat. Guests circulated around the room before and after the speeches, exchanging memories of Blair, and a guestbook for the event garnered more than 75 signatures.
An Economics concentrator, Blair worked at the Harvard Shop, was a member of the Spee Club, joined the boxing club, and served as an economics and statistics tutor for College students. Over the summer, she interned for the Boston Consulting Group in Georgia.
Sean D. Kelly and Cheryl K. Chen, Dunster House faculty deans, organized the event along with some of Blair’s friends. In an email announcing the service, Kelly and Chen wrote the goal of the memorial was to help the House community feel “supported and sustained” in the aftermath of Blair’s death.
“Courtney was a good friend to many Dunsterites, and her loss is keenly felt,” they wrote. “This will not make the event any less of a tragedy; it is awful and will remain so. But it may allow us nevertheless to become stronger and closer than we otherwise would have been.”
This service was not the first memorial held for Blair at Harvard this fall; last month, students and friends gathered at the Spee to remember her and celebrate her life.
A light drizzle fell Friday morning, but about an hour before the service began, the sun began to shine and a light breeze blew through the courtyard. Blair’s mother said she could sense Courtney’s presence in the change of weather — Courtney’s optimism, her vitality, and her sunny personality.
—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.
—Staff writer Michael E. Xie can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelEXie1.
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