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UVa Graduate Student Dies in Haiti Earthquake

January 14, 2010

University of Virginia officials confirmed Thursday afternoon that a 2009 graduate of the university died in the devastating earthquake in Haiti Tuesday night. They say Stephanie Jean-Charles, who graduated from the university in May of 2009 and is currently a student at the Frank Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy, died in the Haiti earthquake.

Jean-Charles received her bachelor's degree in French and foreign affairs in May 2009 and became a graduate student at the Batten School. A resident of Port-au-Prince, she was home with her family when the quake struck and suffered a fatal head injury.

The other members of her family are safe, according to a cousin.

Sylvia Terry, who retired last year as associate dean of the Office of African-American Affairs, remembered Jean-Charles as a stellar student and peer adviser who helped many other students.

"She and I exchanged emails just last week," Terry said. "I still remember the first time I met Stephanie. She introduced herself to me and gave me that warm smile of hers. She proceeded to volunteer to tutor other entering students in French."

Harry Harding, dean of the Batten school, said in an email to faculty, staff and students that Jean-Charles took up the challenges of adapting to an English-speaking culture and academic environment with "enormous energy and commitment."

"Her main aspiration was to take the knowledge and skills she learned at the Batten School to try to improve the educational system in Haiti and to keep children in school," he wrote.

An event to celebrate her life and mourn her death, Harding said, would probably be scheduled late next week.

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