Sally Sasz smiling next to flowers.

Sally Sasz was beautiful beyond words. She spoke with unparalleled eloquence and inspired with ease. She moved through the world by radiating a spirit that was deeply compassionate and excitingly genuine.

Sally was one of the most influential people in my life. She was selfless. She was committed to authenticity. She was fiercely independent. She was relatable and intellectual and funny, and above all else, she was the most kindhearted soul I have been lucky enough to have met.

I remember the first time we got coffee to talk about the Morehead-Cain after I made it to the first round of interviews. At this point, I was so utterly convinced that I was not getting it and equally as petrified by the idea that I would because I always scorned UNC. I remember she paid for my coffee. I sat across from her and marveled at her: she was someone who never has and never will fit into any type of box or category. She is all of it, I thought. She was chic and cool and stylish and yet so unconcerned with the opinions of others or with whatever social pressure may arise. She, more than anyone I have ever met, was so effortlessly and flawlessly herself.

I remember gripping my coffee and wondering what she thought of me. I, unlike my perception of her, have so often been put into boxes. In high school, in college, by strangers, by my own family, by my boyfriends and my closest female friends, and I sat there, and I think I expected her to put me into one of those boxes, too. I think what I held was the same premonition that I hold with anyone who I meet: I must prove myself worthy to her. I thought that I cannot sit here in front of Sally – the most intellectual yet relatable, beautiful yet generous, and eloquent yet humble woman I had (and still have) yet to meet and just be myself. I felt like there was no chance that I end up earning her respect by babbling on about the things about which I care.

It took a matter of minutes for all of that to slip away. All my fears and concerns and judgements about myself that were holding me back, that were clamming me up, they all melted at the gracefulness with which she spoke, with the thoughtfulness with which she listened, with the gentleness with which she held my gaze.

So vividly I remember her long skinny fingers. When she used her hands to speak, they accentuated every word. They were her exclamation points, her question marks, her dignified periods. They were the hands that paid for my coffee. The hands that held onto trekking poles on her Outward Bound, on which, and I remember fondly laughing at this, she said she hiked at the back the entire time, hanging with Patrick while secretly counting down the moments to reach camp for the night.

Sitting there and sharing that first coffee, one of many more to come, she most literally embodied who I wanted to be. Literary, spontaneous, crafty, excited about life, excited about other people’s lives, unapologetically herself, and inspired by even the smallest moments of her day. She was energized by being able to sit in a coffee shop in Carborro on a Saturday all day and do work. She gushed about the ability to browse her computer for hours on end to try to plan her summer (which ended up being a summer in NYC!).

She drank up every moment of her life while also drinking up every moment of the lives of those around her. I have never felt so genuinely cared for by someone who essentially knew nothing about me as I did by her. She gave me the gift of getting to know about her and about her hopes, and her English major, and her thoughts on Greek Life, and her experience on South Campus, and her plans for her summer, and her beautiful words that now I wish I could go back and rehearse, and rehearse, and try to embody.

Something incredibly special to Sally is how time with her passed. It did not pass in a traditional linear sense. I never sat down with Sally, ordered a coffee, sipped and chatted, finished, and left. Each conversation, each coffee date Sally and I shared was abundantly rich and vividly original. Time spent with her was full of dream sharing–both the small and the big, outloud thought processing, internal and outward reflections, and the most careful listening.

She poured her heart out to me in every moment we shared together. Every cup and meal, every run in at the Foundation, every wave from across campus.

Sally Sasz imbued love, tender care, and an intoxicating excitement for adventure into each word she spoke, each gesture she performed, and each person she met.

All of the precious time I spent with her felt like a distinct piece of a mosaic in my day, a bright refreshing blue or an electrically charged orange piece of tile that stood out amidst the other neutral colored tones.

As look back on it all now, I see the brilliant color she infused in my life, created in separate and clear pieces, now clustered into one dazzling, indelible impression.

I feel immensely grateful by the opportunity to have known and to have loved her. She is an inspiration in all senses of the word. She is someone who forever altered the course of my life through simply spending time with me and speaking her truth. She is someone who was always a soft place for me to land, anytime and anyplace, and she did so without judgement or any feeling of burden.

She made me want to come to Carolina. In all honesty, she made me want the Morehead-Cain. She made me want to continuously do better in the hopes that one day, my life could somewhat resemble hers. She made me lift my chin up and strive to be the most humble and generous version of myself possible, no matter who I am or where I am. Through loving me, she taught me how to love myself.

I will feel Sally’s absence every time I walk by the Carolina Coffee Shop, every time I pick up a piece of Anglo-Saxon literature, and every time I see a stranger glide effortlessly on a bike across the street. I will feel her absence for all of my time on the campus to which she brought me.

Sally had a contagious spirit. Her creativity, tenacity, courage, thoughtfulness, empathy, and undimmable light will forever shine in me and in everyone who knew her. I will miss Sally with my entire being, and I can only hope that I can strive to make her proud, bit by bit, each day, although I know that her love and respect were something I never had to earn. It was always unconditionally given.

Group photo of Sally Sasz ’21 standing besides Sammy Ferris ’22 and two other scholars.

Sally Sasz ’21 (second from right) with Sammy Ferris ’22 (far right)

Published Date

July 11, 2020


Morehead-Cain Foundation

Article Type

Blog, Scholar Stories