On March 9, more than 400 students, faculty and staff, family and friends, along with Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, joined Eastern Connecticut State University President Elsa Nunez in the Betty R. Tipton Room for a moving memorial service for Eastern alumna Victoria Leigh Soto '08. Victoria lost her life on Dec. 14, 2012, protecting the children in her first-grade classroom during the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
Eastern President Elsa Núñez thanked those in attendance for coming and said, "The greatest tribute we can give Vicki is to live as she did -- with a passion for life and a bounty of love for those we hold dear."
Malloy compared Soto, a double major in early elementary education and history, to legendary Connecticut educator Prudence Crandall and American patriot Nathan Hale. "You could not find a finer person to want to emulate than the one whose life we celebrate today," said Malloy.
Victoria's younger sister Jillian recalled fond, fun-filled memories of Victoria, saying she was "always silly and spontaneous, and she made us so happy." Rachel Schiavone, Soto's college roommate and best friend, said Soto's "friendship was genuine and true, and if you were with her, you were going to have a good time."
Other speakers included author Wally Lamb; Hari Koirala, professor and chair of the Education Department; Ann Higginbotham, professor and chair of the Department of History; and English Professor Daniel Donaghy. The Eastern Chamber Singers, directed by Performing Arts Professor David Belles; Performing Arts Professor Emily Riggs; Guitarist Coley O'Toole; Eric Ouelette; and other Eastern faculty, students and friends performed moving musical selections during the ceremony.
Victoria was a dean's list student while she attended Eastern and graduated with high honors. In her memory, the University has created the Victoria Leigh Soto Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund to support Eastern students studying to be teachers who have unmet financial need. Checks should be made payable to the ECSU Foundation, Inc. and mailed to the Victoria Soto Memorial Endowed Scholarship, Eastern Connecticut State University, 83 Windham Street, Willimantic, CT 06226, Attn: Kenneth J. DeLisa.