Christina E. Tournant ’18, who lived in Maseeh Hall, has died at home in Florida while on voluntary medical leave, President L. Rafael Reif wrote in an email to campus last Friday.
At a meeting with dorm residents earlier in the afternoon, Professor Suzanne Flynn, a Maseeh Hall housemaster, said that the death was apparently a suicide but that the case was still under investigation.
The 2014 valedictorian of Osceola High School, Tournant was interested in studying biomedical engineering at MIT. Tournant was a sister of the Alpha Phi sorority as well as a diver on the swim team.
“She was that kid that was just happy,” Tournant’s mother, Tava Wilson, told the Tampa Bay Times. “She wanted to do all kinds of fun things.”
Tournant had been suffering from postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome for the past two years, the newspaper reported. The syndrome caused her severe pain and circulatory issues. Her condition worsened in December, and in February, she took medical leave from MIT.
Wilson said it was the physical pain that led to her daughter’s “emotional pain.”
“She was very stoic and didn’t want to let on how horrible she was feeling … She was really stoic to a fault,” Wilson said.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that minutes before Tournant was found dead last Thursday night, apparently having jumped off a parking garage at Tampa International Airport, she had sent a text message to her mother: “I love you, mom.”
“Sorry,” she wrote in a separate note, “I couldn’t keep fighting.”
Reif wrote in an email to campus Friday that “we will come through this tragic period together.” A community gathering was held in Lobby 7 on Saturday to remember Tournant.
Chancellor Cynthia A. Barnhart PhD ’88 spoke at the gathering. “People across our community are feeling the impact of the recent losses and those that came before,” she said. “There is no shame in asking for help and support.”
Tournant’s death came less than a week after the death of fellow freshman Matthew L. Nehring ’18, which Reif announced on March 1.
“Four days ago, we gathered in lobby 10 for a similar reason,” Barnhart said. “Coming so close together, [the deaths] are a terrible blow,” she said.
Members of the MIT community who feel affected by the deaths can access MIT student support resources and Mental Health Services at http://together.mit.edu, or via phone at 617-253-2916 during the day and at 617-253-4481 during nights and weekends.
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This article, written by Tech staff, was published online March 6 and last updated March 8.