Student remembered as passionate, driven

The university’s psychology department confirmed Saturday that former senior psychology major Alex Hurt died Friday.

“It is with an extremely heavy heart that we share this news with you,” a statement on the psychology department’s Facebook page said Saturday. “We will miss her contagious energy, big heart, and insatiable curiosity.”

University spokesperson Ben Luttrull confirmed that Hurt was not currently enrolled at USI in an emailed statement to The Shield.

Hurt had withdrawn from her classes about half way through second semester according to Amie McKibban, psychology department chair and Crystal Steltenpohl, assistant professor of psychology.

Steltenpohl said Hurt was enrolled in one of her classes, but the connections she made were not just inside the classroom.

“She was in my office a couple of times, and we had emailed back and forth a lot,” Steltenpohl said. “She ended up having to withdraw but we had talked after that.”

Steltenpohl said she received an email from Hurt on March 12 about an idea she had been planning after watching a movie that sparked her interest for upcoming projects when she planned on returning to school in fall 2018.

“She said can we talk about the research idea and wanted my advice. She was so excited,” Steltenpohl said.

Steltenpohl said the research methods course that Hurt was enrolled in tends to make people nervous.

“(Hurt) was very passionate and she always had ideas,” Steltenpohl said. “After I learned she passed, I tried to see if she had a Twitter account, and she did. There were tweets about my class, and it was really hard.”

Steltenpohl often helps students through the process of applying for graduate school, something she said she was excited to help Hurt do as well.

“She was always asking questions and always had ideas for research,” Steltenpohl said. “She was passionate about psychology research, and always had positive attitude.”

Following sudden news of Hurt’s death, Steltenpohl sent out an announcement on Blackboard to make her class aware of the situation and letting them know campus resources are available for help.

“I’m happy to walk them over to the counseling center,” she said. “I want to remind students to take care of each other. It’s already a stressful time of the semester, it’s hard for the students and faculty and making sure everyone is okay.”

McKibban, an associate professor of psychology said she had met Hurt two and half years ago after she entered her office to ask a question.  

“She’s one of those students I have always seen,” McKibban said. “And she burst into my office and said ‘I know we have not had a class and I know we see each other all the time and I have so many questions I want to ask you.’”

McKibban said that drive and motivation from a student set Hurt apart from others.

“(Hurt) just had a passion for psychology and she was never afraid to get to know faculty, even those who she did not have for class,” McKibban said. “She did not take a class from me, but she was always here asking questions. It is rare to come across a student who is courageous enough and passionate enough to walk into a faculty’s office even if they haven’t had a class with them, and just say here I am and this is what I am interested in, and that was (Hurt).”

McKibban, who has taught college academia professionally for 18 years and at the university since 2009, said Hurt had been going through a lot this semester.

“When I say she was unique, she had some major stressors, like many people do, but she had many stressors that many college students should not have to deal with,” McKibban said. “In spite of that she was always so positive…just positive and hopeful.”

At the beginning of the semester and up until just a few weeks ago, McKibban said she had been working closely with Hurt.

“Just keeping her in the loop after she decided to sit out part of the semester to keep her memory fresh and skills sharp so when she came back in the fall she didn’t fall behind,” McKibban said.

Friends of Hurt describe her as a social butterfly with ample friends and somebody that everyone knew and liked.

“I actually met her here at USI through mutual friends,” senior radio television major Townsend Outlaw said. “I feel like almost everyone knew her and she was always smiling. I have never seen someone so joyful. Her smile is probably the number one thing I will always remember.”

Outlaw said just last Friday she had invited some friends along with Hurt over for a birthday party.

“We actually invited her over for my roommates birthday but she never responded,” Outlaw said. “We thought maybe she got a new number or her phone was off. When I found out I was in a pure state of shock, I couldn’t believe it. She is the first friend I have ever had that’s passed away, and it’s hard to even fathom that someone you use to spend time with is gone. It’s a tragedy.”

Friends also said that the psychology department had been familiar with Hurt for years.

“It’s a hard loss,” McKibban said. “Losing a student is inevitable. It comes with life and it is never easy, but what makes (Hurt) a special one is we worked closely with her and she kept in contact.”

McKibban said the psychology department was part of Hurt’s identity and despite her struggles she never hesitated to keep them in the loop.

“She just couldn’t stay away,” McKibban said. “For her to come up here even though she wasn’t taking a class, just her being here to communicate with us, that was so important.”

Moving forward McKibban said she just wants all students to remember Hurt for her positivity.

“(Hurt) despite any struggles she ever talked about…she was one of the most genuine, kind, curious and intelligent students I have ever come across in my 18 years of teaching, and that is what makes this so hard,” McKibban said. “She was great, just a great human being.”

According to Hurt’s online obituary she was a 2013 graduate of FJ Reitz High School.

Funeral services for Hurt will be held 10 a.m. Thursday at Pierre Funeral Home on West Franklin Street.

Memorial contributions may be made to Riley Children’s Hospital.

Hurt’s family was not immediately available for comment.

The Vanderburgh County Coroner had not filed a public autopsy report at press time.