Sad news of a student death

Williams students, faculty and staff,

I am writing to share the deeply upsetting news that one of our students, Jackson Ronningen ’24, died this weekend in California.

Jackson was a first year student who came to study in person this fall, then switched to remote study in late September. He expressed an interest in economics and chemistry, but baseball was his great love: He pitched for his highly-competitive Cypress (CA) High School team, which won the California state championship in Dodger Stadium, and joined the Williams varsity squad this fall. He was recruited to Williams by Coach Bill Barrale, who remembers Jackson calling him repeatedly last spring to learn whether the college would be opening, and his excitement when told that we would.

Jackson believed that baseball taught him resilience and perseverance. That notion is echoed in his admission essay, which reads in part: “I continue to set lofty goals for myself, ignoring the scoffers and doubters along the way. I live life with determination, on my toes, reaching way up for the sky—which I will continue to do at Williams College.”

We have all too soon lost the opportunity to know Jackson as a fellow student—someone whom his parents describe as deeply caring for others. I hope you will join me in holding his teammates and classmates, his family and loved ones in your hearts during their time of loss.

We were informed of Jackson’s death by his family. Soon after, College Chaplain Valerie Bailey-Fischer, Integrative Wellbeing Services (IWS) Director Wendy Adam and Associate Dean of Students and Dean of First-Year Students Chris Sewell ’05, accompanied by Dean Sandstrom, met with Jackson’s JAs and entrymates to inform them and offer support. Jackson’s professors have also been notified.

I want to remind students of the resources available to you as you absorb this news, too. The Integrative Wellbeing staff, the Dean’s Office team and the Chaplains encourage you to reach out for help making a support plan if you need one, whether you are in-person or remote.

Many types of help are available, from individual and group sessions at IWS to on-call help available around the clock, to meetings with the deans or chaplains, as well as outside services like Talkspace. You may want to review this list of grief resources or look at the options listed on the IWS website. The IWS ChooseWell Resource Hub also includes support for students, faculty and staff.

Amid the numerous sources of struggle and sadness in our lives right now, people may experience the news of Jackson’s death in varied ways. If you find yourself wondering whether your reaction is significant enough to justify reaching out for help, please do so. The question itself is a sign that it might be good for you to connect and, if so, we want to support you

Again, I am very sorry to share the news. I am keeping Jackson and his family in my thoughts and prayers, and invite you to do the same.