Monday, April 23, 2001
Loved and remembered by friends, advisor, Alpha
Sigma Tau sisters
After a year-long battle with leukemia, a 2000 JMU graduate died on Tuesday.
Sara Yakovac, 22, was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells that starts in the bone marrow and can spread to other parts of the body, during her senior year at JMU, shortly after spring break. She underwent several medical procedures to battle the disease, including a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy.
In March, Yakovac went to Ohio State University's medical center to undergo a bone marrow transplant with the cells and blood marrow from a close non-relative match. She died of complications a few weeks later.
While a student at JMU, Yakovac was a member of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority where she was on the executive board, president of the Economics Club and a subject-area honors student.
Senior Stacy Brownstein, a friend of Yakovac and fellow member of AST, last met with her in March prior to the bone marrow transplant. She said that throughout her illness, "Sara's attitude stayed positive and she would still make everyone laugh.
"Everything about her was special — she was brilliant, beautiful and had a huge heart," Brownstein said. "She was always there to talk to, to go to for help and to get great, practical advice. Sara was persistent and humble about her achievements."
Professor of Economics Andrew Kohen was Yakovac's academic advisor and senior honors project committee supervisor. He kept in contact with her during her illness.
Ge said what amazed him most about Yakovac was her "indomitable spirit." He said although she knew her odds of recovery were not high, she always remained positive.
"She managed to keep other people's spirits up," he said. "She didn't want to get other people down. She raised their spirits by putting on her most optimistic face possible."
Kohen said the doctors told Yakovac that she had a 20 percent chance of coming through March's bone marrow transplant procedure, yet Yakovac remained positive, asserting that she would be in that 20 percent.
Kohen said although she won many battles in her fight against leukemia, she lost the war and "we all lost as a result."
Kohen said that cataclysms such as life-threatening diseases often emphasize what we are as human beings and the way we live the rest of our lives. He said Yakovac's persistence and positive attitude reflected the way she lived her life.
"As short as it was, she did have a very high quality life," he said. "She enhanced the quality of the lives of people around her.
"Not only was she my student and advisee, but also my friend," Kohen said.
Members of AST met Thursday to share memories of Yakovac and plan activities in her honor. The group decided on several ideas, including sending flowers to Yakovac's funeral and to the home of her parents. They also plan to start a scholarship in honor of Yakovac and to make a donation to the Leukemia Society in her name. They are considering buying a brick in her honor to be placed in the Leeolou Alumni Center.
A viewing service will be held Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Demaine Funeral Home on Backlick Road in Springfield. The funeral service will be held Friday at 2:45 p.m. at Fort Myer Chapel in Arlington followed by a burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
AST is accepting donations to create the Sara
Yakovac Scholarship at the following address: Alpha Sigma Tau National
Foundation, Inc., 1929 Canyon Road, Birmingham , Alabama 35216-1723. AST
is still determining the criteria for the scholarship.