Remembering Those Who Passed in 2020


From Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, the world lost some truly remarkable people this year. As we finally head into 2021, it feels appropriate to remember some of those who passed this year. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Galeta Sandercock ‘22

One of the most devastating losses this year was that of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court justice and fearless advocate for gender equality and women’s rights. She attended Cornell University and graduated at the top of her class. She became the first female member of the Harvard Law Review and later transferred to Columbia Law School, where she graduated at the top of her class. In the 1970s, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU and in 1980, she was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. by Jimmy Carter. In 1993, she was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton, becoming the second woman—and first Jewish woman—to join the Court. 

Throughout her life and career, Ruth Bader Ginsburg faced gender discrimination and harassment. At Harvard, she was admonished by her peers for taking a man’s spot. Despite her incredible accomplishments and academic success, she could not find a job after law school because most law firms were not ready to hire women. When she joined the faculty of Rutgers Law School, she had to hide her pregnancy out of fear that her contract would not be renewed. Her work as an advocate for women’s rights only exacerbated the discrimination she faced, but that never stopped her. She was a force to be reckoned with. 

Despite her often controversial opinions, Justice Ginsburg was a shining example of both civility and fortitude; she had a strong friendship with Antonin Scalia, a justice whose views often contradicted hers, but stood her ground on the court and never let another justice’s ideas eclipse her own for the sake of compromise. She was never afraid to disagree with her colleges, as evident by her famous “dissent collar.” 

Justice Ginsburg fought lung, colon, and pancreatic cancer throughout her life. Upon her diagnosis, she did not step back or retire; she continued her work, only taking medical leave when absolutely necessary. Her dedication to her work was unmatched—she missed oral arguments for the first time in her entire career in January 2019. When asked about her legacy, Justice Ginsburg said she would like to be remembered as “someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.” Justice Ginsburg died at the age of 87 on September 18, 2020, but her legacy as a fair, compassionate, and resolute advocate and Supreme Court Justice will be remembered forever. 

John Lewis: Alaina McGill ‘22

John Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama on February 21st, 1940. Growing up, Lewis was outraged by the discrimination and oppression he saw around him and was inspired by Martin Luther King’s movement. In 1957, Lewis began studying at American Baptist College in Tennessee, where he helped organize sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. Despite being arrested and beaten multiple times during his peaceful demonstrations, Lewis never gave up fighting for civil rights and racial equality. He participated in the Freedom Rides of 1961 and acted as a key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. He was the youngest speaker at the event, encouraging the crowds by saying, “We all recognize the fact that if any radical social, political and economic changes are to take place in our society, the people, the masses, must bring them about.” Most notably, Lewis led a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, where he and others were severely beaten by state troopers. The unnecessary violence from police was seen throughout the country, revealing to many the violence, racism, and oppression black Americans faced at the time. This event came to be known as “Bloody Sunday” and led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Lewis’s tireless efforts during the Civil Rights Movement have inspired Americans for many decades, and are more relevant than ever before as the Black Lives Matter movement continues fighting against systemic racism in America.

In 1986, Lewis was elected to the House of Representatives, representing Georgia’s 5th District, where he would serve until his death. During his time in office, he fought for healthcare reform, improvements in education, gun control, and voting rights for all Americans, gaining him respect and admiration across the country. Lewis oversaw multiple renewals of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which he believed was essential to ensuring the fundamental rights of all Americans.

In December 2019, Lewis was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and he passed away on July 17th, 2020. Though he is gone, he leaves behind an unmistakable legacy on America through his work for racial equality and voting rights. Following the presidential election of 2008, John Lewis praised America’s progress, saying, “When we were organizing voter-registration drives, going on the Freedom Rides, sitting in, coming here to Washington for the first time, getting arrested, going to jail, being beaten, I never thought — I never dreamed — of the possibility that an African American would one day be elected president of the United States.” The fight for racial equality in the US is long from over, and it is our duty to continue the legacy of John Lewis and continue to fight for true equality for all Americans. 

Katherine Johnson: Galeta Sandercock ‘22

Katherine Johnson was born in West Virginia on August 26, 1918. She was a gifted mathematician who began her career as a public school teacher. In 1953, she was hired by NASA (then NACA) and soon became the first woman in the Flight Research Division to be credited as an author of a research report. She also worked on the first human space flight, Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7. 

However, her most famous accomplishment was her work on John Glenn’s 1962 orbital mission. She checked every calculation by hand, and remembers John Glenn saying, “If [Johnson] says they’re good, then I’m ready to go.” Her irreplaceable role helped ensure both Glenn’s safety and the success of the mission. Johnson worked at NASA for 33 years, and said of her career, “I loved going to work every single day.” Katherine Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2015. 

She died on February 24, 2020 at the age of 101, but her accomplishments and impressive career will be remembered for years to come. Her career at NASA occurred at a time when the field was heavily dominated by white males, and Johnson opened the door for more women at NASA and women in STEM fields. 

Kirk Douglas: Ava Garibay ‘22 and Gavin Covalle ‘24

2020 also brought about the heartbreaking death of iconic actor and director Kirk Douglas. Despite coming from impoverished Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Douglas’s fame skyrocketed after his debut in the film The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. He was soon regarded as one of the leading box-office stars of his age, and Douglas managed to become one of the last surviving movie stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. He had one of the most iconic and impressive careers of any actor, and acted in at least 65 films. In his prime performing days, he acted in as many as three films a year. In his later years, Douglas shifted his focus to philanthropy and charity. He and his wife established the Anne Douglas Center for Homeless Women to treat of drug and alcohol addiction, a program to help troubled students finish their education called the Kirk Douglas High School, and the Kirk Douglas Theater to aid young artists. Douglas continued to star in movies during the last years of his life, and his talent, influence on the film industry, and passion for helping others will be remembered for years to come.

Sean Connery: Daniel Bell ‘22

Scottish Actor Sir Sean Connery died October 31, 2020, at age 90. Connery was one of the greatest actors of his generation, winning an Academy Award, two BAFTA Awards, three Golden Globes, and one Oscar. Connery was knighted in 2000 for services to film drama.

Connery’s most notable role was as the first “James Bond” starring in seven Bond films from 1962 to 1983. In his later years, he appeared in films such as The Rock, where he played John Mason. He is also known for his role as Captain Marko Ramius in The Hunt for Red October. Connery was a prominent figure  in the film industry, and worked with famed directors such as Alfred Hitchcock. While he officially retired from acting in 2006, Connery, according to the producers of James Bond, “revolutionized the world with his gritty and witty portrayal of [Bond]. He is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the [Bond] film series and we shall be forever grateful to him.”

Naya Rivera: Ava Garibay ‘22

One of the most striking and tragic deaths of 2020 was the passing of actress Naya Rivera. She was most famous for her role as Santana Lopez in “Glee” and grew to be a one of the most beloved actresses on the show. She started her acting career at a very young age, but had her big breakthrough in the popular show “Glee.” Her character, Santana Lopez, became a role model to viewers across the world and her talent landed her a large range of awards, including several ALMA awards and a People’s Choice Award. Multitalented, Rivera also had a brief music career and released an album in 2014. However, her ability to connect and inspire thousands of people through her performance is what really made her so extraordinary and loved. Although Naya Rivera died at such a young age, her legacy will continue to touch the hearts of many for years to come

Alex Trebek: Daniel Bell ‘22

Alex Trebek, host of the popular game show “Jeopardy” from 1984-2020, died November 8, 2020, age 80, from pancreatic cancer.

In Trebek’s 37 years as host, he became both an American and worldwide icon – his charismatic personality and charm soon became inseparable from the show itself and his place as a pop culture icon was quickly cemented. Before his work on Jeopardy, Trebek worked in Canadian broadcasting until 1973, when he moved to the US to host the game show The Wizard of Odds. His notable achievement by far, however, was his work in “Jeopardy,” and his death was met with an outpouring of sadness and mourning from across the world, including several U.S. and Canadian television programs commemorating Trebek’s life and legacy.

In his 37 seasons, Trebek was the soul of his show, and even people who had never watched an episode could recognize him. He won multiple awards for his work, but his consistent appeal was his warm personality on and off set, something that truly stuck in people’s minds through his career.


This article would be incomplete without remembering those who have died from Covid-19 this year. Over 1,845,000 people worldwide have passed away as a result of coronavirus. The United States alone just passed a startling 350,000 deaths, and COVID-19 rates are once again rising in the United States. Experts say that the holiday season will only bring more Covid-19 cases and deaths. To protect yourself and everyone around you, please wear a mask and socially distance.