Michele Loughlin was kind, funny and always able to lighten the mood. She didn’t take things too seriously, but she was ambitious and an incredibly hard worker. She was the kind of person who never seemed to have a bad day, who wanted to make sure everyone around her was happy and who was always willing to help out a friend.
“Being around her made you smile and made you laugh, and she was always 100% herself,” Kennedy Payne, one of Michele’s teammates on the RedSteppers dance team and a rising senior, said.
Michele, a 21-year-old IU student from New Jersey who had just finished her junior year, died May 23. She was pursuing a degree in International Studies and was a member of the Russian Flagship program. As a Cyber ROTC cadet, she trained alongside other cadets and conducted research in cybersecurity.
Michele was a lifelong dancer and a member of the IU RedStepper dance team during her freshman and sophomore years at IU. She stopped dancing for the RedSteppers during her junior year to focus on ROTC, but she remained friends with her teammates. She also worked at Malibu Grill as a server.
At the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow during high school, she discovered her interest in international relations, according to a statement she wrote on the Russian Flagship Program’s website. She planned to serve in the U.S. military and aspired to one day become the first woman Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Ally Kilzer, an IU 2021 graduate, was one of Michele’s RedSteppers teammates. During Michele’s sophomore season, their coach assigned the team into families of four women led by upperclassmen, and Kilzer was the leader of Michele’s family. Kilzer said Michele was quiet and reserved, but hilarious.
“She was someone you kind of had to listen for,” Kilzer said. “She’d say little jokes or comments underneath her breath, and if you could hear them, she was really funny.”
Payne remembers that Michele could always laugh at herself, too. At one windy football game their coach had recorded, the wind knocked Michele over, and Payne said they’d rewatch the film and crack up laughing.
At a football game in November 2019, Michele was sworn in as an ROTC cadet. It was a moment when two of her worlds touched — her RedSteppers teammates got to be there on the field to support her for her swearing in, since they performed at the game.
Erin Stone, an ROTC cadet and friend of Michele, said Michele was a joy to be around. She said ROTC can be a lot of male energy, and she loved the little things she got to do with Michele, from getting their nails done and browsing DSW to having wine nights together.
“She was really, really determined to be excellent at anything she did,” Stone said.
She wanted to excel in everything from her academics to her cybersecurity internship to her ROTC training, Stone said.
One example Stone gave was when they had to go shooting for ROTC and Michele couldn’t get her sight lined up. Michele read an article by a Green Beret and followed its advice — got an eye patch, put chapstick on her nice glasses — to improve her shooting.
Stone said one year, Michele rented Serendipity for her boyfriend’s birthday and flew his family out to see him.
“She would do anything for the people she cared about,” Stone said.
Chris Consales, a Cyber ROTC cadet and friend of Michele, said he was one of the first people in ROTC to have a chance to meet Michele during their freshman year. They met when a recruiting officer told him about a potential new cadet. They talked for a while about the program, and after she joined a short while later, they became close friends.
Consales, who is studying International Law and Arabic at IU, said he and Michele had a lot of overlapping courses and academic interests in addition to ROTC. Consales described ROTC as a journey cadets go through together, helping each other through highs and lows of school and training. Michele was easy to work with and a great teammate, he said.
“She was a really good teammate, a really good peer, but an even better friend,” Consales said.
Michele’s RedSteppers teammates remember her coming to practices talking about the intense workout she had done that morning for ROTC. As the RedSteppers would start their own workout, they would marvel at how hard Michele worked, with her days sometimes starting at 3:00 a.m.
Kilzer asked her how she did it.
“She would just giggle and keep going,” Kilzer said.
Payne, too, remembers her as an incredibly hard worker.
“She was so determined. She grew up doing ballet her entire life, and then she came to college and explored so many new, different avenues,” Payne said.
Stone said she wants people to remember how strong Michele was, how hard she worked and how deeply she cared for the people around her.
You can visit Michele’s tribute wall to leave a message for her family here.