All her life Kate Puzey ’06 had been an intrepid traveler, attending high school in Japan, and studying abroad in France. The young sociology major left the United States shortly after graduation to serve in the Peace Corps as an English teacher in the rural Beninese village of Badjoude.
Last Thursday she was found dead outside her home in what some have speculated to be a murder. Neither the U.S. State Department nor the government of Benin have confirmed the cause of death.
Puzey was 24.
At the College, Puzey was heavily involved in community service, tutoring local children and serving on the board for Project Phoenix, a partnership program between the College and local middle schools.
“When Kate told me about her acceptance to [the] Peace Corps I was thrilled for her,” Office of Student Volunteer Services Director Drew Stelljes said. “I was not surprised that she was accepted. In fact, the Peace Corps recruiter raved about her potential. She had an array of international experience and a thirst for development work and teaching.”
Stelljes said he remembers her fondly.
“Kate was a dedicated volunteer, a wonderful mentor to children, a top notch scholar, but most importantly she was a very caring person,” he said. “Kate had an infectious smile, a mature manner and a deep sense of life purpose and calling. She exemplified all that makes William and Mary a unique and singular university. She was William and Mary.”
Those who worked with Puzey spoke of her strong commitment to everything she did.
“She was an inspiring leader for the Project Phoenix tutoring and mentoring organization, where her love for the students she was working with was amazing,” Austin Pryor ’08 said.
Others remembered her for her dedication to others.
“Kate was so open, friendly, welcoming, easy-going and she made a big impression on me and so many others,” Benin Peace Corps worker Jeff Guevin said. “Not many people have the intelligence, appreciation for beauty, and care for others that Kate did. Anecdotes can’t do justice to the feeling many of us here get when we think of Kate … She was that ‘model volunteer’ we all thought, hoped, wished we could be.”
Guevin trained with Puzey and knew her through his wife, with whom Puzey was stationed. In a tribute to Puzey in his blog, Gueven wrote, “It’d be easy to say the same trite things everyone says — trite even to note how trite familiar expressions of grief, of mourning are. It’d be easy, too, to beatify her: we tend to do that when friends die.
“The truth is, all those trite things one says about a loved one are true and must be said,” Guevin wrote.
“Our friend was the best. The person everyone could count on. Dedicated. Well-integrated. Smart. Caring. A fantastic hostess. ‘Momma bear.’ Loving. Loved. A saint.”