Meningitis ruled as cause of death for former USC graduate

Published Mar 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm (Updated Mar 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm)

Stephanie Ross was fondly remembered as a stand-out student at Upper St. Clair High School, as a volunteer and an athlete. Ross, 19, was found unresponsive March 10 in her sorority house on the campus of Drexel University, Philadelphia, where she was a sophomore.

She was taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, and on March 12, meningitis was determined to be the cause of death.

Ross was a 2012 graduate of Upper St. Clair High School and was remembered by district Superintendent Patrick O’Toole, who said her death “has deeply saddened our school community. On behalf of the school district, I extend our sympathy to the family and friends of Stephanie.”

He went on to say that Ross was an outstanding young woman “who exemplified the values we have for students at Upper St. Clair in terms of academics, extra-curricular activities and community involvement.”

Ross was a National Merit Scholar while at the high school and also played softball and was a community volunteer. While at Drexel, Ross studied mechanical engineering.

“Stephanie was very bright and was in our accelerated math program,” said high school faculty member Clay Yonker, who taught Ross AP physics C-Mechanics. O’Toole said the class is one of the most challenging courses taught at the high school. “I was not surprised that she chose to study engineering in college. She was an extremely talented student,” Yonker concluded.

Another of Ross’ teachers, Kevin Coffman, said, “Stephanie was the kind of student you will never forget. She had such a passion for life. I never saw her without a smile on her face.”

The district offered support services for the students through the counseling office.

Students at Drexel University were officially notified of Ross’ death by email March 11 by university president John A. Fry.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to Stephanie’s family and friends,” Fry wrote. “Dean of Students David Ruth and I are in close contact with her parents during this incredibly sad and difficult time. The death of a fellow student has a deep impact on a close-knit community like ours.”

Grief and counseling services were offered to students.

Fry wrote that the university is working closely with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and is working with those who were in close contact with Ross to provide antibiotics.

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