Cover photo for Quentin Alexander Whitsitt's Obituary
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1996 Quentin 2022

Quentin Alexander Whitsitt

November 15, 1996 — October 4, 2022

Quentin Alexander Whitsitt, a Texas native aged 25 years, died peacefully of a cardiac event on October 1, 2022, at his home in East Lansing, Michigan. From the beginning, he was a joyful, optimistic person, evidenced by his chalk writing on the garage wall: “hape da,” pronounced “happy day.” Happy days filled his life. As a child he exclaimed more times than can be counted that this was the “best day ever,” and later his social media was full of places, people, and activities he loved.
While living on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi from the age of eight, he became an accomplished sailor, competing in regattas across the Gulf Coast. He enjoyed helping other youngsters learn to sail as an instructor at the Long Beach Yacht Club. He continued sail racing through his sophomore year at Long Beach High School, where he also was on the cross country and track teams.
Quentin chose to finish high school at the Mississippi School for Math and Science, a boarding school for advanced study in northern Mississippi. He was missed at home, but had big plans for his life and wanted the challenge. He filled his summers with science camps and internship experiences. His internship at the University of Alabama Birmingham became the determining factor for the course of his life. He attended UAB, earning a degree in neuroscience in 2019. He was a member and officer of TKE fraternity, serving as president in his senior year.
Quentin went on to enter the biomedical engineering PhD program at Michigan State University. He deeply respected and loved his PhD mentor, who guided him and encouraged him to stretch his scientific wings. His research into brain implants resulted in a number of published papers and led to his decision to pursue training as a neurosurgeon after completing his PhD. He introduced the idea of a student council for the biomedical engineering department, oversaw formation of the council, and was serving as its first president.
Quentin traveled to Glasgow, Scotland in July 2022 to present his research to the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Immediately after, he went to Cedaredge, Colorado for what was to be his last family visit, a highlight of which was a late July backpacking trip with his Dad. Quentin returned home to East Lansing, finished writing his last paper, and then had some time to study for the MCAT for entrance into medical school. He was found sitting in his easy chair, study materials in his lap. At the time of his death Quentin was absolutely on top of the world, proud of what he had already achieved and full of plans for the future.
Quentin was much more than his educational and professional accomplishments. He loved the beauty of the extensive gardens at Michigan State University, so he became a volunteer there. Family and friends regularly received pictures of a beautiful garden view or a tidily weeded flower bed. He also volunteered at the local hospital, where the maternity ward was his favorite duty. He was a delightful companion and loyal friend, always generous with his time and attention. Most importantly, Quentin was a loving member of an extended family who adored him. His family is profoundly grateful for each of the 25 years with Quentin as he grew into the mature, confident, and accomplished man he became. There were many occasions to exchange what had become a family saying – hape da!
Quentin is survived by his parents, Karla and Philip; sister Piper; grandparents Joan Schmidt, Phil and Carol Whitsitt, and Sandy and Don Griffin; aunts and uncles Deanne Schmidt, David and Cathy Schmidt, Doug and Ginny Levack, Steve and Becky Davis, Wes and Julie Anderson, and Angie and Morris Brooks; and many cousins.

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Dear Karla and Philip,

On behalf of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, we send our deepest sympathy to you and your family on Quentin’s passing. Quentin was a valued member of our community.

I first met Quentin a year ago when I started in the role of chair of the department. Quentin met with me several times to launch his successful effort to organize the BME graduate students. I was and remain impressed by his intellect, initiative, and planning. Most of all, it was clear in his efforts to organize, that Quentin was motivated by a desire to improve the experience and lives of his peers. As I was starting a new leadership role, I took pause in recognizing that Quentin is a servant leader I can learn from.

I felt a special connection to Quentin considering he studied at UAB. I grew up in Birmingham, my Father worked at UAB for 16 years, and my nephews and niece (in high school) regularly attend events at UAB. Also, my wife and I are friends with Amanda and Kurt Zinn. Kurt is the one who recruited and encouraged us to move to MSU. In addition, Quetin’s advisor, Erin Purcell, is one of my most trusted and valued colleagues. And, Tiffany Owen, our graduate program coordinator, has devoted her career to graduate student success and had a personal connection with Quetin. This loss is close to Kurt, Amanda, Erin, and Tiffany (and many others in our community) and I share in their sadness. Finally, I really enjoyed talking with Quentin about his goal of attending medical school; I was genuinely excited for him and for the potential of him serving as a physician+scientist; The world needs caring, servant leaders as physician+scientists and this loss is a loss for many.

This past week, we have shared group and one-on-one conversations with fellow students, staff, and faculty. There is shock and sadness here. In their processing, students have shared comments like, “Why”, “Quentin is the best of us”, “Why would God take amazing Quentin and leave awful people,” to a student in shock who could only say “Quentin made me a hamburger last month.” The sadness here stems from the reality that people deeply cared for Quentin and Quentin is important. Once the shock subsides, this loss will be felt by our community for a long time. Quentin will be missed.

Please know our community sends our thoughts and prayers. We are sorry for your loss. If there is anything we can do during this time, please let us know.


With sympathy,

Adam
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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

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