VP Murphy offers condolences on deaths of students

Media Contact

Joe Schwartz

Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy issued the following statement May 8:

Memorial service for Valerie Ota
A memorial service for Valerie Ota will be held Monday, Aug. 10, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Guy Nearing Summer House at Cornell Plantations.

As we close the semester, I am deeply saddened to tell you of two losses to our community. Lisa Cimbaluk, 35 years old, died on January 8 in California. Valerie Mae Paurus Ota, 30 years old, died on April 3 in Brooklyn, New York. While both of these students were off campus at the time of their death, the impact of their passing is as present as if they were right here in Ithaca.

Lisa was an insightful social science researcher and a gifted teacher. Her work as a doctoral candidate in development sociology focused on the production and reproduction of geographic inequalities in the United States. Lisa’s research addressed a range of topics, from fiscal devolution in county governments to spatial and temporal determinants of United States poverty rates. In addition, she published a paper on family change and poverty in Appalachia with Policy Analysis and Management Professor Daniel Lichter. Among Lisa’s greatest strengths was her facility with quantitative methodology, which she employed in her research and shared more broadly as an employee with the Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research (CISER).

Valerie was passionate about social justice and environmental sustainability. As a doctoral student in development sociology, she studied subsistence agriculture, agroecological approaches to climate change adaptation and community development. These interests coalesced in a study of food security, nutrition and gender inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa, which Valerie explored through a participatory research project in Tanzania and Malawi. Her academic pursuits were inspired by her earlier work on food security and sustainable agriculture in the Philippines and community-based projects in Chicago that examined the interconnections between education and health, and urban food production and community access to healthy foods.

On behalf of the entire Cornell community, I offer our heartfelt sympathy to Lisa’s and Valerie’s family, friends, colleagues and mentors. Please join me in remembering Lisa and Valerie and acknowledging our loss.

Support services:

Support services are available to all members of the Cornell community. Students may consult with counselors from Gannett Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling 607-255-5155. Students may speak with a peer counselor by calling EARS at 607-255-3277.

Employees may call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program at 607-255-2673. The Ithaca-based Crisisline is available at 607-272-1616. For additional resources, visit caringcommunity.cornell.edu.


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