Rackow ’04 remembered as stand-out, inspiration

By Matthew Stone

As a student, Emily Rackow worked at Macalester’s archeological dig sites in Greece and Israel and subsequently studied abroad in Turkey.Rackow’s professors extolled the 2004 graduate for embodying the values by which Macalester encourages its students to live.

“She believed that we had to become citizens of the world,” Classics professor Andy Overman said of Rackow. Overman traveled to Philadelphia the week before the Macalester memorial service to attend Rackow’s funeral.

Friends, family and others from the Macalester community gathered to honor Rackow in a memorial service on Friday, Nov. 17. Rackow died unexpectedly in her Washington, D.C., apartment on Nov. 3.

Overman, who served as Rackow’s advisor, said that she was a student who stood out in multiple ways.

“Those of us who teach know that there are a few students in every class, every cohort, who jump out, who make us better,” he said.

Overman said that the college’s recent decision to hire an Arabic instructor was an appropriate tribute to Rackow’s memory. Rackow, who majored in both Classics and Anthropology, had pushed to incorporate Arabic into Macalester’s curriculum, Overman said.

“That is one way that Emily’s spirit is very much with us,” he said.

Anthropology professor Jack Weatherford said that memories of Rackow—sometimes a smile, sometimes her voice, but mostly her words—”flash through” as he enters his office. Her name is inscribed on a plaque beside Weatherford’s office door in honor of her receipt of the Margaret Mead Award for excellence in Anthropology.

Weatherford described Rackow as a hard-working and inspiring student.

“She wrote with her heart, so the mind could follow,” Weatherford said of Rackow’s writing of her honors thesis, which involved field research in Turkey.

Friends of Rackow who spoke at the service evoked memories of a companion who loved summertime activities, such as eating ice cream and swimming, and a student sincerely understanding of others.

“She inspired me to be a better person, peacemaker, friend,” said one friend from Rackow’s graduating class at Macalester.

Rackow’s father, David Rackow, said that he could best honor his daughter’s memory by honoring the commitments she had made in her life.

David Rackow described the two weeks between his daughter’s death and the memorial service as two weeks filled with “shock and grief” as well as “admiration and praise.”

“What we learned about her in the last two weeks confirmed what we already knew, expanded what we already knew and gave us a few surprises,” he said.