Sydney Monfries, a senior at Fordham College at Rose Hill with a passion for media and travel, died on April 14 after sustaining a fall inside the Keating Clock tower on the Rose Hill campus. She was 22.
“Our hearts go out to Sydney’s parents, and her family and friends—theirs is an unimaginable loss, and we share their grief,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham.
“There are no words sufficient to describe the loss of someone so young and full of promise—and mere weeks from graduation. Fordham will confer a bachelor’s degree upon Sydney posthumously, which we will present to her parents at the appropriate time.”
Monfries, a 2015 graduate of Jesuit High School in her home city of Portland, Oregon, was majoring in journalism with a focus in digital technology and emerging media. She’d been working as a photography intern at InStyle magazine since May; previously she’d interned with Creative Media Marketing, Noelle-Elaine Media, and Portland television station KGW.
A Palm Sunday Mass that had been scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday was instead conducted at 7 p.m. in the University Church to honor Monfries’ life; several attendees laid their palms alongside flowers on the steps of Keating Hall afterward.
Monfries’ father, Wayne Monfries, said that Sydney had fully embraced the potential of living in the media capital of the world.
“She loved her time here, and was looking forward to starting her life in New York,” he said.
He added that his daughter was a caring person who was always concerned about those she loved.
“She was giving and kind hearted,” he said. “We’ve lost our daughter, but the world has lost a very special person.”
He noted that Monfries loved travel, and spent fall of her junior year studying abroad at Fordham’s London campus. She was an “old soul,” he said, able to comfortably hold conversations with adults when she was 13, and also a doting big sister to her sibling, Caitlyn. She knew from her high school days that she wanted to major in journalism, because she understood that being able to write would give her a foundation for other pursuits, he said.
More than that, she knew she wanted to do it at Fordham, he said.
“When she got in here, she was so excited. It was the only place she cried when she got in,” he said.
“New York is my campus, Fordham is my school? She lived that.”
Her uncle Greg Monfries, a resident of New York City for the last 25 years, said Sydney was vivacious and approached everything from a positive point of view. As art director for People Books, he had the pleasure of occasionally running into her at InStyle, which shares a corporate parent with People.
He has since moved to Rhinebeck, he said, but his niece still visited him and his partner on weekends—proof of her devotion to family, he said. One of his fondest memories is accompanying her on her first visit to Rose Hill, before she was admitted.
“At one point, she just said ‘Do you mind if I walk alone?’ She walked into Edwards Parade, and it was wonderful to see her looking up and around, starry eyed. She knew that’s where she wanted to go. And I got to share that with her,” he said.
Jaime Jordan, FCRH ’02, a former lecturer in the communications department, said she considered it a privilege to have taught Monfries in two classes.
“She was a wonderful young woman: smart and kind, ethical and conscientious,” she said.
“At a time when ethical and responsible journalists seem more important than ever, I would often look out at my class and think Fordham and our department could be proud to send Sydney out into the profession.”
Karina Hogan, Ph.D., associate professor of theology, had Monfries in her feminist and women’s studies class this semester, and said that although Monfries was quiet, her writing showed that she was thinking hard about the history and theory of feminism.
“Toward the end of the semester, she spoke up more about her personal experiences of sexism and her growing awareness of the intersection of race, class, and gender inequalities. She seemed to be increasingly disturbed by the social injustices we discussed as we moved closer to the present,” she said.
Her classmates likewise saw enormous potential in Monfries. Sitting together the day after her death, Rose Hill seniors Chloe Messier, Ian Watson, Cole Donnelly, Bridget Kayes, Caroline Roncinske, and Alexandra Dorety, came up with a joint statement that summed up their feelings. More than anyone they knew, they said, Monfries loved to be around people.
“She was the centerpiece of her class, and her energy brought together people who may have never met,” they said.
“It was difficult to talk to her at parties, because everybody else was trying to get her attention, and her eagerness to appreciate and cherish everything that we did was what made so many of our college memories special.”
In addition to her father, sister, and uncle, Monfries is survived by her mother, Susan Owens Monfries.
A memorial service for the Fordham community only will be held April 16 at 8 p.m. in the University Church and Terrace. It will be planned and led by members of the student body. For those based at Lincoln Center who are interested in attending, free Ram Van service will be provided. Contact Conor O’Kane at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a seat. There will also be a more formal service next week, with details to follow.
Funeral services for Monfries have been planned for Monday, April 22, at Mt. Neboh Baptist Church, 1883 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.: Viewing from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., service at 12 p.m. Burial will follow at Mount Hope Cemetery, 50 Jackson Avenue, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.