President Elam commemorates the one-year anniversary of the death of Occidental student Marahyah Ilah Richardson.

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of Marahyah Ilah Richardson ’23, known by friends and family as Ilah, at the all-too-young age of 18. Ilah, a Los Angeles native, came to Oxy from Loomis Chaffee High School in Windsor, Connecticut where she participated in theater as both a tech and actor.

During her short time at Occidental, Ilah made a tremendous impact. She participated in the 2019 Multicultural Summer Institute (MSI) where she grew close to her MSI peers. Ilah served as a first-year class senator for the ASOC Senate. She also worked as a programming assistant in the International Programs Office (IPO) where she bonded with the IPO staff. Ilah was considering a group language major, with a focus on Chinese and linguistics. She lived in Pauley Hall and described her favorite place on campus as the MLK Lounge.

Ilah was beloved for her compassion and her commitment to advocating for her Occidental peers. We will always remember her authenticity, positive attitude, resilience, commitment to social and racial justice, and her determination to make a difference on campus and in the larger community.

As we grieve the loss of Ilah, we encourage you to join us in taking time to acknowledge Ilah’s passing. To that end, we ask you to join with us at 12:00 p.m. PST tomorrow, Wednesday, January 27 for an Oxy-wide moment of silence in her honor. To support you on this day and in the days and months ahead, we would like to offer you a few resources--including rituals and prayers from different religious and spiritual traditions--to hopefully help you as you consider how to express your grief.

In addition, Emmons, the Intercultural Community Center and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL) are in the process of coordinating an event to remember Ilah, and would like to invite student involvement in the process. Students who might be interested in collaborating should contact the We will, of course, provide more details about the event as soon as they are available.

We also remind you that students may access ongoing support from Emmons Counseling Center. To inquire about services or schedule an appointment please call 323-259-2657. To have a confidential conversation with Rev. Dr. Susan Young, ORSL director, please email Dr. Young at

Very best,

Harry J. Elam, Jr.

Rob Flot
Dean of Students

Wendy Sternberg
Dean of the College

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