Laura Krajewski, a recent UTM graduate who was set to begin her master’s degree at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, died in an accident while hiking near Etobicoke Creek on March 2. She was 24 years old.
Krajewski, who worked as a communications assistant at UTM’s Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre at the time, had recently graduated with an Honours Bachelor’s of Science in Biology in 2016. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, she was an avid environmental conservation volunteer.
Associate Professor Fiona Rawle spoke with The Varsity about the first time she met Krajewski. Rawle recalled how Krajewski approached her after attending her first lecture in BIO152, and how they got to know each other during her visits to office hours.
“She [had] this smile that’s very memorable,” said Rawle. She recalled how Krajewski had “an ability to make people feel at ease,” and how “supportive she was of everyone she interacted with,” such as students in her lab group.
For one of Rawle’s course assignments, Krajewski wanted to write a song about a scientific concept. Krajewski not only submitted lyrics, but also a recording of her playing a song she named “The Sound of Mitosis.” Rawle helped Krajewski publish the music, which appeared in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education in 2014.
“I remember often wishing that my kids would grow up to be like her,” said Rawle. “She’s really confident, but she’s also very caring and she is really good at making others feel comfortable. She wants to do really well, but in a really collaborative way, which is really, really quite unique. She was really good at lifting up those around her.”
Robin Haley-Gillin, Manager of Organizational Development & Volunteers at the Riverwood Conservancy, recalled Krajewski’s love of working outdoors and dedication to environmental conservation. The conservancy cares for the Riverwood region along the Credit River.
According to Haley-Gillin, Krajewski first became involved in the conservancy as a student in BIO400, an internship course at UTM.
Krajewski helped establish the conservancy’s GPS and GIS mapping systems, which the conservancy uses to track invasive species. She continued to volunteer at the conservancy after her internship ended, and taught children about outdoor science at Riverwood.
“Losing Laura means that the world has lost a wonderful person, an environmental champion, and a wonderful human being,” said Haley-Gillin. “There are no words to describe how we at the Riverwood Conservancy and how I myself personally feel her loss. And we are grieving along with her family, and we are just so, so sorry.”
Tess Kendrick, a close friend of Krajewski since elementary school, reflected on her relationship with Krajewski and the profound impact that she had on her life.
The two grew close since they met in third grade. They would walk home together from school every day, and talk about everything — how their day had been, what issues they were grappling with, and their hopes for the future.
After graduating from high school, Krajewski went to UTM and Kendrick to UTSG. They maintained their friendship over the phone and through occasional meetups, often to explore nature trails.
Kendrick had always been inspired by Krajewski’s commitment to growth.
“She was always thinking, ‘How do I want to be the person I want to be? What do I need to do to make that happen?’ I feel like I could go on and on about how she positively influenced me.”
Kendrick also marveled at Krajewski’s ability to live in the present. “On our walks together…we would be in the middle of conversation and she would just stop walking,” she recalled. “She would tilt her head up to the sky, close her eyes, and just bask in the sun. She’d close her eyes and have a smile on her face.”
“I just have such a deep love for her, so it’s really hard to come to terms with this,” said Kendrick. “But I’m also so grateful to have had her in my life, and for her to have taught me the things she did.”