April 20, 2014
In Memoriam: Eliana Hechter
Eliana Hechter died on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Eliana graduated magna cum laude from the University of Washington in 2006 with a degree in mathematics. She entered the UW at age 14 through the Robinson Center’s Early Entrance Program, was a student in the University Honors Program, and graduated when she was 18 years old.
As an undergraduate, she studied creative writing in Rome with the Honors Program, conducted research at Friday Harbor Laboratories, participated in the Mathematics Department’s highly selective Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program, was a teaching assistant for honors accelerated advanced calculus (a course she took as a freshman), and was an involved student in the Honors Program community.
Eliana’s undergraduate honors and awards include UW and national recognition. Her UW awards include a Dean’s Medal in the natural sciences, a Phelps Fellowship, NASA Space Grant Scholarship, and a Best Graduating Senior Award from the Department of Mathematics. Nationally, Eliana received a Goldwater Scholarship and was a 2006 Rhodes Scholar—at the time she was the second-youngest person to ever receive the Rhodes. She was also selected for a Marshall Scholarship but declined in order to accept the Rhodes.
At Oxford University, Eliana earned her Ph.D. in statistics. According to her website, she was a visiting graduate student at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard as well. At the time of her death, she was a first-year medical student at the joint Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program.
UW English professor and former Honors Program director Shawn Wong remembered an 11-year-old Eliana coming to his office door looking for critical feedback from him on her stories. When Eliana enrolled at the UW at age 14, she took Wong’s graduate creative writing class and was a student in his Honors study abroad class in Rome when she was 15. They stayed in contact through the years, and Wong read two of her novels-in-progress. Wong remarks, “There was no doubt in my mind that she was going to be a published novelist as well as a physician and mathematician.”
Eliana is survived by her father, former UW professor Michael Hechter. Her mother, Debra Friedman, passed away in January, 2014, from cancer. She was the chancellor of UW Tacoma at the time of her death but was also instrumental in establishing Undergraduate Academic Affairs, formerly known as the Office of Undergraduate Education, on the Seattle campus.