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Death of local girl leaves community shaken

By Staff | Aug 19, 2011

The Shepherdstown and West Virginia University communities were shaken earlier this week after hearing about the news that junior journalism major Emily Spickler, 19, had passed away while studying abroad in Australia. An autopsy confirmed that the death was due to natural causes.

“Emily was a beautiful, vivacious, vibrant young girl. She was adventurous. She loved to travel,” said Jill Spickler, Emily’s mother in a phone interview Wednesday, just before the family left for Australia.

Jill said he daugther, a talented dancer, writer and model, had traveled to Australia to the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba as an exchange student for her journalism program.

“She was an amazing, beautiful, talented, compassionate, caring young woman,” Jill said, adding that she had more words to say about her daughter than could fill any newspaper.

Jill said Emily, who left in July for Australia, had already taken a roadtrip to Brisbane.

“She is leaving behind so many friends and so many people that love her so much,” Jill said.

She added, “Our little town of Shepherdstown has been so behind us and so compassionate and so caring. We thank them for their support.”

WVU issued the following statement on Aug. 16:

“The WVU community is shocked and deeply saddened to learn of Emily’s passing,” said Michael Lastinger, associate provost for International Academic Affairs. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the Spickler family and Emily’s many friends and sorority sisters (Alpha Omicron Pi), many of whom have returned to campus to prepare for the fall semester. “Emily was an aspiring journalist and a life-long dancer, who was on a prestigious year-long exchange at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba – and from all accounts, was enjoying her experience abroad.”

Lastinger said WVU is in contact the family and with colleagues in international programs at the University of Southern Queensland.

WVU’s Carruth Center is offering counseling and other support services for students.

Approximately 1,000 students study abroad each year, according to Lastinger, some on spring break, some on a summer or semester basis, and others, like Emily, for a year. While there have been accidents and illnesses, this is the first tragedy of this nature that anyone can recall.