Ibrahim Busnaina: 1980 - 2016
"Ibe was a hero. To be sure, he was more often the ideal dinner guest: he modeled for Harper's Bazaar, wrote for Shonda Rimes on two hit shows, and loved shade (literal and figurative). We were honored that he joined our holiday dinners for years. But after the collapse of the Gaddafi regime, Ibe returned to his homeland of Libya at great personal expense to heal the injured and secure the lives and safety of countless others as a courageous, exceptional doctor. His courage may have been born out of necessity, but was ultimately a choice. What a mensch. What a loss. Still, I prefer to think of Ibe existing in our lazy Sunday afternoons that drifted into dusk, taking silly photos in our sunglasses amidst judgmental hipsters -- forever delighted and delightful."
Leah Deni: 1979 - 2004
From Matt Garmur (formerly Murphy)
"Leah Deni was an incredible person taken from us way too soon. I remember her as a whirlwind of energy, spirit, laughter and kindness."
Kim Harris: 1979 - 2009
From Cristina Cardemil
"I’ll never forget Kim’s amazing smile. Her quiet but powerful kindness and warmth always lit up the entire room and made everyone feel welcome and at ease in her presence."
Chang Lin: 1979 - 2018
Sean Peterson: 1979 - 2013
Leah Zallman: 1979 - 2020
For more photos of Leah, check out the Google Photo Album put together by Nadav Tanners, Jen Kidwell Drake, and several other close friends of Leah's.
- From Nadav Tanners
"The story of how Leah and I got together was a true Quaker Matchbox romance. We started off as casual friends, but as our social circles began to overlap more, we started to spend more time together. I fell for her first -- hard -- in the Spring of 2000. It’s possible that my strong feelings were more intense because it was finals season, so I found myself dreaming about Leah instead of focusing on my work. Leah didn’t return my affection at first, but after a summer apart, she came to my dorm room in Mertz one night and told me she wanted to be together. After a night with very little sleep, we had to get up early the next day for a Marine Biology field trip to the Jersey Shore, which we spent in a love-filled daze. We only spent one semester together at Swarthmore as boyfriend and girlfriend, but Swarthmore played a large role in our early romance -- me visiting Leah at the health center after she spiked a high fever, Leah dropping her backpack to serve as an EMT when the honker went off, me serenading Leah with 16 Feet on her birthday, and more...
For me, falling in love with Leah also came with the benefit of joining her wonderful group of friends at Swarthmore, one of the most loving and tight-knit group of people I’ve been fortunate enough to know. That bond has remained just as strong in the 20 years since they graduated, and after Leah’s death, the love that I received from this group was life-saving."
- From Andrea Juncos
"I met Leah at Swat's prospective students' weekend in 1997. We had an instant connection. She was one of the reasons I chose to come to Swarthmore. We were hallmates freshman year and roommates our sophomore year - the year my mom died. She was a huge source of love, support, and wisdom throughout. After graduation, we lived together in NYC, where we had plenty of adventures. We were fortunate to end up in the same neighborhood again when I moved to Somerville, MA in 2013. When I got married a couple of years ago, she took me wedding-dress shopping and helped with wedding plans. She and Sujatha Srinivassan spoke at my wedding. When my son was born, she drove us all home from the hospital and brought us homemade soups and stews to ensure we were well fed and taken care of.
Simply put: Leah was the best person I knew. She always took such good care of me, as she did with everyone in her life. Her friendship nourished my soul. She always listened, asked thoughtful questions, and offered a wise perspective. I have always admired her and wanted to be more like her. I will carry the lessons I learned from her with me. I miss her acutely. And I'm so grateful and honored to be her friend."
- From Annie Willman Silk
"Leah was one of the kindest people I have ever known. Her values were reflected in her parenting style. Our family and the “Zallners” rented a house on a big pond for a weekend in September 2020. Leah and Nadav allowed Eli and Kai to tool around in the kayaks without life jackets, while watching them from a distance. Like many parents, I have a tendency to be hypervigilant when my children are near water, but Leah was telling her boys implicitly that she trusted them to make good decisions and she had confidence that they could make a mistake and recover safely. When it came to teaching kindness, however, Leah was deliberate and explicit. One morning, I was up early taking care of our puppy. Kai woke up and started to run around and holler while everyone else was still sleeping. Leah immediately went to Kai and gently asked him to quiet down. Kai had got himself quite round up already and didn’t feel like breaking his momentum. Then, more firmly, she asked “Do you think everyone likes to hear noise while they are sleeping?” Still trying to break free of Leah’s hand, he eeked out a “no.” She persisted, “If you were tired and sleepy, and someone was making a big noise in the house, would you like that?” These words broke Kai’s manic spell and he became a lamb. I couldn’t help but contrast the deliberateness with which she instilled compassion against her low-key approach to water safety. As a parent, I have always thought “safety first,” but watching Leah made me wonder if compassion is even more important."
- From Jen Kidwell Drake
"The moment when I knew that Leah Zallman and I were going to be friends happened in a bathroom on Hallowell 3rd at the end of our first year at Swat. Leah had come to get ready for a party with my roommate Lizzy Goldsmith. Leah and I were chatting in that bathroom and I just remember one of those moments of pure connection when you know, or at least hope, that someone is going to be in your life for a long time. Fast forward to the end of sophomore year, when we were all trying to figure out summer plans. I really didn’t want to go back to Maine, but I couldn’t afford to pay to live anywhere else. And Leah did such a huge thing. She invited me to live with her, her mom, and her sister at their house in DC for the summer, and I was able to get a paid internship to cover my basic expenses. That was what it was like to be friends with Leah, or even just be around her: you needed something, she had something to give, she gave it, even if it was something huge. Without hesitation. Living with someone’s family is either going to make you friends for life or go the other way, and fortunately for us, it went the first way. I loved seeing how Leah and her family interacted in the world, the breadth and depth of their experiences from so many different places, and how much humility they had about that. Their home was warm (well, partly because they didn’t use A/C much), comfortable, relaxed, full of conversation and laughter--as Leah’s homes would always be.
Our friendship spanned years, miles, life experiences, road trips, many songs, hard conversations, dumb jokes--we met our husbands, we had kids, we worked through our careers and balanced them with motherhood, we made homes, with collaborative soul-searching about big decisions and quick consultations about little ones. Our kids are friends, our husbands are friends. We knew each other’s extended families. My parents adored her. My girls cried when we learned we had lost her. Because she ended up living near where I grew up and we ended up living near(ish) where Nadav grew up, we were always able to see each other a couple times a year, even with a country between us. Reinforced by a group of Swarthmore friends that is one of the greatest blessings of my life. We challenged each other sometimes. She had my number and I like to think I had hers. I miss her every single day, and every single day I know how lucky I was to be her friend."
- From Matt Garmur (formerly Murphy)
Leah Zallman was perhaps the most kindhearted person I've ever met. She was a gift to the world.
- From Cristina Cardemil
"I have great memories of Leah’s presence at our biology and chemistry study sessions at Swarthmore. Unlike some of us who were constantly stressed out, she somehow managed to nap through some of our discussions on difficult problems and still succeed. In retrospect she was probably consolidating all of that information in real time. It was clear to all of us who knew Leah at Swat that she would be an amazing doctor with her innate empathy, kindness and compassion and I am glad she was able to help so many people through her work as a physician."
- From Yasemin Sirali
"Leah made me feel so accepted, so cared for as a foreign student with few social skills in a whole new and demanding system and culture. She actually tried to understand me and made me feel heard, was very responsive, very helpful, and just always left me with this warm feeling that I was safe with her."