Christopher Elliot ’13, known affectionately to many by his nickname “Leaf,” passed away on July 24 in an accident at a geosciences research program at East Rosebud Lake in Carbon County, Mont. He was studying field mapping through the Yellowstone Bighorn Research Association.
Born and raised in Warwick, Penn., Elliot graduated from Warwick High School as valedictorian, but many of his proudest achievements involved his non-academic accomplishments. In addition to participating in scholastic quiz competitions, Elliot shined in theatre and founded the drama club at his high school.
Elliot matriculated to the College in 2009. In many ways, his arrival to the Purple Valley marked the beginning of a new phase for Elliot. His nickname originated over the summer before “Leaf” became an Eph. While considering the arbitrary character of names among friends, Elliot suggested that he could choose any word as a name and have people address him as such. To prove a point, Elliot changed his name on Facebook to “Leaf.” He arrived on campus to find that everyone referred to him as Leaf based on the name associated with his online profile.
“Leaf was quite like his namesake – loved to go out on limb, loved to hang high above the ground and loved feeling the wild wind on his face,” Scott Lewis, director of the Williams Outing Club (WOC), said.
Inside the classroom, Elliot was known for his creative insights. He graduated with honors from the College this past June. He earned a bachelor’s degree in geosciences and completed a thesis with professor of geosciences Ronadh Cox, chair of the department. Over the course of his academic life at the College, Elliot ventured to Hawaii, Egypt, Ireland and California to conduct and participate in various scientific investigations. He planned to attend graduate school to study structural geology.
Outside the classroom, Elliot enjoyed playing the guitar and making sketches. Photography, philosophy, poetry and music numbered among his many interests. He enjoyed riding bicycles and motorcycles in his free time. On campus, Elliot was particularly visible for his work with WOC, for which he served as a rock-climbing instructor for three years.
“The great thing about Leaf was that he didn’t care what other people thought,” Sam Murray ’14, Elliot’s co-instructor for rock climbing, said. “He was always down to do something fun and adventurous.”
Upon hearing of Elliot’s passing, the College community bonded together to recognize his legacy and reflect on the far reaches of his presence. Dean Bolton sent an all-campus e-mail on July 25 notifying students, faculty and staff of Elliot’s tragic accident. “When we learned about his passing, we did have a small gathering that the campus as a whole was invited to that night, which is what we often do, [to] just give people a chance to be together,” Bolton said.
The Elliot family extended an invitation to the campus to attend Elliot’s life celebration on Aug. 17. The family asked for donations to “The Christopher Elliot Scholarship Fund,” an award to be bestowed upon the Warwick High School senior that best exudes the character of Elliot’s life, in lieu of flowers.
As the College community supports each other in the wake of Elliot’s passing, discussions have begun about how to best commemorate his life. “Whether people feel like they would like a service or something completely different like a memorial hike – all kinds of things are moving around, and we kind of take the lead from those that were closest to [him] for what kind of thing they would like to do,” Bolton said. Though the form of a memorial service or tribute remains unconfirmed, one thing remains clear – neither Elliot nor his time at the College will be forgotten.