Dear Members of the Barnard Community,

I write to you to mark the first anniversary of Tess Majors’ passing. For the Barnard community, the arrival of COVID-19 earlier this year was made worse by the fact that we were still reeling from this tragic loss just a few months earlier. I hope you can find time today to reflect on — and celebrate — Tess.

Tess was a daughter and a sister, a musician, creative writer, athlete and friend. She was excited to be at Barnard, and we, in turn, were thrilled to have her. One of her high school teachers once remarked that Tess’ “confidence allowed her to knit the world together within this school and outside of it.” Those fortunate enough to have gotten to know Tess in her short time at Barnard certainly saw that spirit.

It is compoundingly difficult that we can’t gather on campus today. But while we are apart, I take solace in the fact that we were able to come together earlier this year to remember Tess. In that gathering, I was struck by a commonality in how Tess was described by friends and teachers: Tess believed very strongly that encouraging intellectual curiosity leads to solutions for some of today’s most difficult societal conflicts. “I feel invigorated,” she wrote on her Barnard application, “when forced outside my intellectual comfort zone” — an idea that personally resonates with me and I know so many of us at Barnard.

Making sense of such violent tragedy is a difficult and unending process. Today is a day to celebrate Tess, to recall how much she embraced a hopeful optimism that, working together, we can find unity in difference. I hope you’ll join me in continuing to be inspired by Tess Majors and, as one of her teachers said, working not just today but every day to knit the world together.


Sian Leah Beilock, President