In Loving Memory - Courtney Fate

Courtney Fate
Courtney Fate was a senior at Purdue University and was well on her way to graduating with an industrial engineering degree when doctors diagnosed her with a rare and aggressive form of colon cancer. Though her prognosis was not favorable, she never wavered in her desire to meet head-on the personal goals she had set out to achieve. Her family and friends swelled with pride as she received her diploma in May 2009. Though she died January 30, 2010, it is hoped that her spirit will live on through the Courtney Fate Engineering Scholarship established by her family (grandparents Fred and Janice Wendt) and friends (Eric Hammond, Matthew Dudeck, Nicole Moorhead and Judith Hollis).

Celebrating her unique qualities …

Courtney Fate arrived on Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus in August 2004 prepared to make the most of college life. She was not at all intimidated, having grown up hearing tales of the Purdue experiences shared by her aunt, Jamie Wendt (BS 1992, consumer and family sciences), and uncle, Fred Wendt V (BS 1992, mechanical engineering), and it was in her uncle’s engineering footsteps that she was determined to follow when she enrolled in the School of Industrial Engineering.

To this day, her friends are still struck by the way she instantly embraced Purdue University as her home away from home.

Matthew Dudeck (BS 2009, mechanical engineering) recalls meeting Courtney during their freshman year at Purdue’s Boiler Gold Rush, an orientation program that takes place the week before classes begin.  

“Everyone who participates in Boiler Gold Rush is new to Purdue and looking to make friends, but you don’t necessarily end up remaining friends with everyone — or anyone — you meet during that time,” Dudeck said. “But Courtney was so fun-loving and genuinely excited about the whole college experience that it was hard not to get caught up in her enthusiasm.

“I was completely different. I came to Purdue as kind of a square, solely focused on engineering. Over the next four years, our friendship grew and she helped me understand there was a whole lot more to the Purdue University experience than I had ever imagined. I came to emulate her zest for life.”

Nicole Moorhead (BS 2008, chemical engineering) also found herself drawn to Courtney’s magnetic personality.

“I met Courtney through a mutual friend,” Moorhead recalled. “We were both in engineering, and we were both very social people, so we really hit it off. She had such an addictive personality, and she was so spontaneous and filled with so much energy.”

It did not come as a surprise to Courtney’s grandmother, Janice Wendt, that her first-born grandchild was able so easily to touch the lives of those around her. 

“Courtney was always that special, joyous, loving child — bright and vivacious,” Janice Wendt said. “She always made friends easily and then treasured them for life, teaching us all how to live, love and have fun while also setting goals and working hard to achieve them.”

Appreciating her courage …

In September 2008, Courtney was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, which resulted in her having to subject herself to multiple surgeries as well as biweekly chemotherapy.

Those closest to Courtney insist this devastating news did little to alter her outlook on life as she continued to progress toward her goals of graduating from Purdue with an industrial engineering degree and pursuing an engineering career. 

“Courtney was always very proud of her involvement in engineering and the Women in Engineering Program,” noted Eric Hammond, Courtney’s boyfriend, who stood by her throughout her battle with cancer and is currently working toward a Ph.D. in pharmacy at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. “She was an incredibly caring person who had all kinds of friends and really taught me a lot about the importance of connecting with people.”

As the medical expenses started to add up, Courtney’s friends and family members sought ways to help defray some of the costs. A benefit was organized by Courtney’s family and friends.

“Courtney was grateful for the support she received but did not like the idea of people feeling sorry for her,” Dudeck recalled. “That just wasn’t her idea of how life is to be lived.”

Courtney graduated from Purdue in May 2009 and accepted a job at Honeywell International in Phoenix, Arizona, starting that summer. 

“We were all so proud of her when she got to participate in the Purdue graduation ceremonies on May 17, 2009,” recalled Janice Wendt. “She was surrounded by family and friends and got the opportunity to celebrate her accomplishment before leaving for another cancer surgery. I was blessed to be by her side through surgeries and chemo treatments as she never lost sight of her goals. I know she was inspired by her Uncle Fred and Aunt Jamie, and through Courtney’s encouragement, her brother Zach is now in building construction management at Purdue.”

Hammond said, “Even though cancer eventually took her life, she never allowed it to rule her life. Many people would have had no idea she was terminally ill.”

Determined not to let Courtney’s memory fade, Hammond, Dudeck, Moorhead, and many others participated in fundraising efforts for the Colon Cancer Alliance before the idea of establishing a scholarship endowment in Courtney’s name was brought to their attention by Judith Hollis, who came to know Courtney quite well during the two-year period when she dated Hollis’ son, Lars.

“My role in all of this is somewhat unique in that I am the mother of Courtney’s former boyfriend, but she and I remained close even after their relationship ended,” Hollis said. “She was a very special person, and the fact that she was able to complete her engineering degree after learning of this worst-case scenario diagnosis and that she was then able to go through an initial surgery, then chemo and radiation every two weeks throughout the year while managing to finish up all of her engineering classes is extraordinary. 

“The idea for the endowment came to me in March, so I contacted Purdue in search of a way to create something positive from this tragedy.”

The Courtney Fate Engineering Scholarship will be fully funded once contributions totaling $25,000 are received. The scholarship is academic merit-based with a preference in selection for Purdue students participating in the Women in Engineering Program.

“All of us were searching for a way to do something great in her memory, and we wanted to do something personal,” Moorhead said. “My hope is that the scholarship funds will go to female engineering students with big dreams and aspirations. Courtney was so noble, and she was so proud to be studying engineering as a woman at Purdue University. She had so much school spirit, and she really valued the whole college experience.”

“We want her hopes and dreams to live on through the scholarship,” added her grandfather, Fred Wendt IV. “It is our hope that this will allow her memory to live on while also inspiring students with attributes similar to our Courtney.”

If you would like to support this scholarship endowment, please designate your gift to the Courtney Fate Engineering Scholarship and mail your contribution to Purdue Foundation, 403 West Wood St., West Lafayette, IN 47907-2007.