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Study abroad award to honor student

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Mar. 19, 2008 


Sophomore Rachel James loved traveling. She lived in Argentina in 2004, and was selected as one of four students who would be studying abroad in Argentina next fall through the Council on International Educational Exchange program.

But her dream of studying abroad ended early when James died in a car accident three weeks ago. Since then, the exchange program has presented IU with a study abroad scholarship honoring her memory and “seize the day” outlook on life.

“She was very alive, very passionate,” said Rachel’s father, Danny James, who teaches in the history department at IU, but is on sabbatical and currently resides in Scotland. “She had very passionate beliefs of the world.”

The Rachel Di Pietro James Scholarship will give $1,000 to an IU student who will participate in the Council on International Educational Exchange’s Argentina program. The scholarship will begin in the 2008-2009 school year and run for the next 10 years.

“It’s a great consolation to the family,” said Kathleen Sideli, associate vice president for Overseas Study at IU. “It will honor her memory. Most study abroad organizations are not going to just give away a scholarship. They were moved by the circumstances.”

When deciding upon who will receive Rachel James’s scholarship, the overseas study program will look for somebody who embodies her spirit and interests, Sideli said. IU will set up the criteria for the award with her family.

Plans are also underway to possibly create an endowed scholarship in honor of Rachel James through the IU Foundation. Information will be forthcoming as plans are decided, Sideli said.

Rachel James was a Spanish-Latin American studies major. Besides spending eight months in Argentina in 2004, she had traveled to Italy, France, Spain, Uraguay and western Europe. She planned to visit her parents in Scotland over spring break.

Rachel James was very close to her brothers Daniel, 26, and Nick, 30, and his wife Capella, who considered each other sisters, Daniel James said. Her mother was Lynn Di Pietro, who worked as an assistant dean in the IU Graduate School.

“She was an amazing person,” Daniel James said. “Very unique. Very caring. Beautiful inside and out. Life of the party. She said she always hated injustice and discrimination of any kind.”

Along with travel, Rachel James loved theater, reading, writing, poetry and cooking, Danny James said. She had written one of her poems on a painted background, and at her funeral, her friends presented her family with the memento. She kept a notebook full of poetry and quotes. An earlier version of the poem was found in the notebook, he said

“It’s about a young woman at her age and how life is full of possibilities and seizing your life,” Danny James said. “A poem that was very much a reminder of my daughter Rachel James.”

Rachel James grew up in Durham, N.C., where she formed a passionate, not to say slightly crazy, obsession with Duke Blue Devils basketball, Danny James said.

“She’s still watching every Duke basketball game,” Daniel James, said. “She never missed a game.”

Rachel James was an honors student and her professors spoke very highly of her, Danny James said. Last summer she worked at a YMCA camp in Bloomington.

“She got really interested in kids,” Danny James said. “It was an eye-opening experience for her. I think teaching at a YCAMP made her think about young children. We were looking forward to seeing her change.”

“She was the most intelligent, bright, beautiful, caring, ambitious person I’ve ever met in my life,” Daniel James said.


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