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Sophomore Dies after Falling from MacGregor - Police Say Circumstances of Death Consistent with Suicide

By Daniel C. Stevenson
Technology director

Melissa N. Ronge '98 fell to her death from the 14th floor of MacGregor House yesterday, sometime between 4 and 6 a.m.

Ronge, 19, was an applied mathematics major and a member of the women's volleyball team. She was a resident of the dormitory's E-entry, and was originally from North Syracuse, New York.

The death has not yet been classified as a suicide, said Kenneth D. Campbell of the News Office. It will take a medical examiner several days to ascertain the cause, he said.

But the circumstances of the death were consistent with suicide, said Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin. There was no evidence of foul play.

Ronge was last seen between 3 and 5 a.m. yesterday reading a newspaper in a MacGregor lounge, Campbell said.

At 6:22 a.m., Campus Police were notified by a MacGregor tutor, and they responded with the Cambridge Police, Glavin said.

A lengthy note was found and given to Ronge's parents, said Senior Associate Dean Robert M. Randolph.

Students, counselors talk in dorm

Ronge "had been connected up with several resources on campus and we were trying to assist her in making decisions about what she wanted to do with her personal issues,"said Dean for Residence and Campus Activities Margaret A. Jablonski.

Ronge spent Sunday night talking with friends and tutors about her personal difficulties, Randolph said. "The support was there for her and for the people she cared about. The bottom line is you can do everything right and it's still not enough."

There were "some incidents yesterday and people had been talking to her,"Randolph said. "I don't think anyone thought that she would be dead this morning."

Jablonski, Randolph, and counselors from the Medical Department were at MacGregor last night to talk with students. Ronge's parents came in last night to talk with her friends.

The incident has been "a nightmarish situation for all of us," Randolph said.

Ronge was active in athletics

Ronge served as team statistician for the men's and women's soccer and basketball teams as well as the men's volleyball and lacrosse teams. Ronge, who wrote many sports articles for The Tech about the teams, described sports statistics as her real love.

Ronge served as MacGregor's athletic chair, played the violin and chess, and liked to read, watch movies, and listen to music.

In a statement, Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams said Ronge "was a vibrant person who was widely involved in our community and who had a bright future. To have this future cut off so abruptly is a source of great sorrow for us all. We extend our sympathy to her family and to all her friends and colleagues here."

Ronge fell from a lounge in MacGregor's A-entry, the site of two suicides several years ago. Because of those earlier deaths, the windows in the tower section of the dormitory were modified to prevent people jumping or falling through them. However, the window Ronge fell from was apparently able to open completely.

Death similar to one six years ago

The last MIT suicide was in January 1993. Festus M. Moore '94, was found dead outside the Boston University School of Law after jumping from the 15th floor. In June 1991, Edward B. Hontz Jr. '92 died after falling from the roof of Building 66.

In October 1990, Younes Borki '92 jumped to his death from the same MacGregor lounge that Ronge fell from. Two years before Borki's suicide, in April 1988, Mark R. Kordos '89 jumped from the dormitory's 13th floor.

Six other students committed suicide in the two-and-a-half years prior to Kordos' death.

Ramy A. Arnaout, Oleg E. Drozhinin, and Anders Hove contributed to the reporting of this story.