Zach Mitchell ’17

1 February 2016
Zach Mitchell ’17
Zach Mitchell ’17

Zach Mitchell, class of 2017, died on January 29. Zach had been battling cancer and was currently on leave from the College.

Zach grew up in nearby Dundas. He entered Carleton in the fall of 2012 and quickly fell in love with the campus and the people; greatly enjoying and adding to the mix of thoughtful, smart, kind, and fun-loving Carls. Among other activities, Zach participated in CANOE and Model UN and his goal in life was to earn a PhD from Oxford University and return to Carleton in 10 years as a Geology professor.

On behalf of Carleton, I extend deepest sympathies to Zach’s family, his friends, his faculty, and all who are impacted by his passing. Please be of support to one another during this time. Additional support is available through the Dean of Students Office, Chaplain’s Office, and Student Health and Counseling.

A memorial service in celebration of Zach’s life and contributions to our lives will be held in the Chapel on Saturday, April 2 at 2:00 p.m. The family is also planning a service to be held at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in Northfield at 10:30am Saturday, February 6. Visitation will be 4-7pm on  Friday, February 5 at the Benson & Langehough Funeral Home in Northfield. Visitation will continue at the church on Saturday one hour prior to the funeral.

With sorrow, thoughts, and prayers,

Carolyn H. Livingston
Vice President for Student Life & Dean of Students

Read Zach’s full obituary on the Benson & Langehough website.

Students who lost their lives while enrolled at Carleton are commemorated in the Carleton Student Memorial.

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  • 2016-02-01 17:05:29
    Susan Singer

    I smile thinking about Zach's energy, creativity, and many contributions to our Science Olympiad team. What a privilege to watch him grow into adulthood. I was thrilled when he chose Carleton. A life well led, but far too short. My heart goes out to his family. We'll all miss his vibrant spirit.

  • 2016-02-02 13:43:06
    Kelly Scheuerman

     My thoughts and prayers go out to Zach's family for the incredible loss they are left to endure.  

    I first met Zach when I helped out with the high school Nordic Ski team.  He always had such an amazing work ethic.  I loved watching how in his quiet unassuming way, he would advocate for and support his peers.  He was such a great team player! When Zach came to Carleton, I was honored to work with him as the Program Director for Eat the Lawn, the Carleton Food Alliance, and also through his time as a Farm Intern.  Zach gave so much to all of the projects he cared about, and I will so miss his can-do attitude and generous spirit.  His legacy will live on through all the lives he has touched and in the many pieces of land he cultivated towards creating a more sustainable world.


  • 2016-02-02 14:25:04
    Connor Rohwer

    I will always remember Zach standing outside among rows of plants, covered in dirt and grinning like mad. In the Fall of my freshman year, I would often go and lend a hand at the Carleton Student Farm, which he was co-managing. As we picked through a seemingly endless tangle of cherry tomatoes, we would converse about the ups and downs of our time spent on Rotary Youth Exchange, swap stories about our high school teachers and friends, and discuss what it was like to be a townie at Carleton. Mostly, though, we would share our dreams for the future. Zach had beautiful plans for his life and for the world, and he matched them with an incredible work ethic and tireless determination. When I expressed interest in running the farm the next season, he encouraged my dreaming and helped me as much as he could. His generosity of spirit lives on in the plants he helped grow and the love he shared with us all. I am so grateful to have known him and will miss him dearly. My sincerest condolences to his family, and to anyone who is grieving this great loss.

  • 2016-02-02 21:13:51
    Matthew Elbert

    I spent a lot of time with Zach out in the Arb, both when he was on the Arb crew and one of our Student Naturalists. He had a great deal of interest in the work that was going on out in the Arb, and when he showed up for work he always brought with him an infectious smile and a great deal of enthusiasm. No matter how hard the work was, or how poor the weather, he always had that smile and a lot of questions. The work was always more enjoyable with Zach around. There are places out in the Arb, places that I have visited in my mind over the past couple of days, and when I walk through them I'll always be thinking of Zach. His fingerprints are allover the Arb, and I will miss him greatly. Zach's family and loved ones are in my thoughts during this difficult time.

  • 2016-02-03 08:56:48
    Lois Perkins

    I had the pleasure of knowing and supervising Zach during his short stint of working in the Gould Library and I'm so sad that he has passed away. Zach almost always showed up for work in the library with dirt on his clothes and shoes or rain and mud trailing in his wake. He loved the outdoors, and it showed! His love of the outdoors and his dedication to geology was apparent even in the confines of indoor work. My heart goes out to Zach's family and friends, his fellow students and his beloved professors.

  • 2016-02-03 10:48:17
    Katie McKenna

    My heart mourns with you as you deal with the loss of such a fine young man. I connected with Zach mainly through his time as a Farm Intern at Carleton. Zach was such a hard working young man, clearly passionate about local, sustainable, food. all of us at Bon Appetit really appreciated the work he put into the farm, and the great produce we received was proof of his passion. Zach always had a ready smile, and was a joy to be around. He will be remembered fondly as made a difference in all he did.

  • 2016-02-04 12:48:08
    Leslie Moore '15

    I first met Zach three years ago in an anthropology class that comprised of only five students. We didn't run into each other much after that, but it wasn't long before I started hearing tales of Zach's achievements and quirks. The following winter, I moved into CANOE for a term when Zach and about half of the house went abroad on the geology trip. When learning about CANOE's communal dinners, I heard about a curry dinner Zach made that was so spicy it became house legend. That same term he got elected to the CANOE board while being abroad, no easy feat, but his dedication to the club and outdoors was memorable. When the house found out that Zach was sick a few weeks later, all thirteen on us huddled together on the 'couchboat' and I realized I was incredibly lucky to be a part of such a loving and powerful community that Zach helped create. It was great to return the next Fall and find Zach moving back into CANOE too. And he brought with him crates and crates of spaghetti squash, tomatoes, and green peppers that lasted for months. I'm still convinced he mixed in a few jalapeño peppers just to keep us on our toes. He threw himself fully back into school that term. He was always running in and out of the house on his way to orchestra practice or farm or Mudd. On top of all of that, he saved my stressed butt by volunteering to become my co-gear manager. Between the two of us we managed to put out and put away seemingly endless piles of sleeping bags and tents each weekend. Despite getting sick again, he still managed to make a detailed inventory of the club's gear over a school break. I'll strive and struggle for the rest of my life to imitate Zach's exceptional dedication and determination. The next few months it was always a pleasant surprise to come to the house and see Zach's motorbike parked in the back and find him sitting or cooking in the kitchen, always wearing a warm knit hat. He was also one of the great pranksters of the house. It was his idea to replace all of Farm House's bike seats with heads of broccoli. So simple and so brilliant. Thank you, Zach, for leaving me with great memories and making CANOE the wonderful community that has both helped me grow up and taught me to never take myself too seriously--there is always time for pranks, a beer, and good conversation with friends. All of my love to you, your family, and everyone else who was lucky enough to get to know you.

  • 2016-02-06 09:47:52
    Drew Higgins

    I got to know Zach when I moved into CANOE house two years ago, our sophomore fall. My roommate Charlotte, Zach and I were the only sophomores in the house. Charlotte and I were nervous amidst upperclassman, but Zach was totally at ease. Joking around, hanging out in the kitchen, cooking ridiculously spicy curry and these potato pancakes he’d learned to make in Germany — he was ineffably himself, and he made us feel comfortable, since he was so easy to talk to. As I got to know Zach that fall, I appreciated his positivity, his humor, his energy. As Leslie mentioned, Zach was a notorious prankster and adventurer, always up for a farm prank, a scheme, a midnight foray, some late night exploration — that wholehearted goofy fun, which is pretty much the true essence of CANOE. Zach and I were both on the CANOE board, and I admired his commitment to the club, the house, the outdoors. No one loved CANOE more than Zach. But he also didn’t just do CANOE. He did farm stuff, orchestra, rugby, geology, SOAN — the list goes on. He was so ambitious; while everyone else felt like they had to “define” themselves by one or two activities, Zach never felt he had to pick; he could do it all! After he got sick, he remained so amazingly positive. It was always wonderful to see him when he stopped by the house, came to board meetings, house dinners and gatherings, his truck or motorcycle parked on the front street. I’ll never forget his crazy cooking and meal concoctions (granola with cheese and sriracha?) or the night he fell asleep on the ground in our room during one of our house bonding parties. He will be missed, and the deep unfairness and sadness of his passing strikes our community hard. But we’ll remember him how he was: kind, spirited, goofy, happy. I’m lucky to have gotten to know Zach, and my heart and love goes out to his family and friends.

  • 2016-02-08 16:35:36
    Jackson Vanfleet Brown

    Zach I'll miss you buddy! A moment that always sticks out to me: feeling annoyed when you asked me to help you hang up your laundry. We were in NZ together, both grounded. You weren't feeling well, I had bumped my knee bad. It was just the two of us alone at the field station while everyone else was out. You asked me to hang up your laundry because you were vomiting every time you had to bend over to get the clothes. I was annoyed, and I didn't believe you. It seemed preposterous that you could be too sick to hang up your own laundry. Well I did it for you anyway, and I've been glad that I did ever since we heard about your diagnosis. Thats when we all realized just how serious it was. All of us who had thought you were being selfish for always claiming the front seat of the van. You deserved it all, zach. I'm glad I could help you in that tiny little insignificant way while you were alive. After that we made you a somewhat grotesque card that depicted a banana being cut in half by a chef's knife. It was meant to be an analogy for the alpine fault. We also had the cool idea of taping a sheet of mylar over the card and each person contributed towards imbuing that mylar with bright colored pencil 100% fake geology. I was proud of that card, I thought it was pretty great, I hope you liked it. Everything I really know about you is from NZ. We were in a mapping group together at Tongariro. I remember that when you were drawing one of the outcrops, you decided to draw angular clasts as triangles. Clint thought that was a poor choice, and he let us know. Before that we had been in a cooking group together. It was difficult trying to align your and my taste in foods. You insisted that milk harvested locally from NZ tasted gross. Therefore we could not buy any milk or dairy products. We made fried rice together one night. That is when you shifted my paradigm by challenging me when I made motions to through away the greenest part of the green onions. I was used to selectively using the white part. You were the first person to demonstrate to me the desirability of the greenest tips of green onion. You also taught me that it is necessary to use day-old rice in making fried rice. That fact was recently confirmed when I consulted Joy of Cooking. Zach, you're part of my Carleton experience, and that means your part of me. Rest in peace.

  • 2016-02-09 08:55:30
    Caroline Sheffield

    I will always remember the tomatoes. Two falls ago when I got the chance to live with Zach in CANOE, he would return from gardening with big (BIG!) cardboard boxes of tomatoes. One night for house chores, we sat on the floor in the kitchen, listening to music and sorting through probably 300 tomatoes, softball and cherry-sized, red and yellow. I had never seen so many homegrown tomatoes in one place! Needless to say, they tasted bright, zippy and sweet. In addition to mass quantities of produce, Zach supplied the house with great enthusiasm for the present moment. He was so grounded, a layer of dirt often revealing his recent work in the Arboretum or the farm, and he carried himself with humility. Zach was so amazingly dedicated to the earth and natural living, and was in many ways a role model for CANOE's ethos. The community will dearly miss his tremendous personality. My thoughts go out to his parents, family, and friends. Much love to Zach.

  • 2016-02-09 13:09:14
    Guthrie Cunningham

    I've found difficultly succinctly describing Zach to people over the past few days, because he had such a constellation of interests. He wasn't only a student of geology, a farmer, a rugby man, or a CANOE community member; he crossed a lot of those separations that might otherwise sort people at Carleton into more distinct groups. Zach and I planned and labored together under the Northfield summer sun while operating the Carleton Student Farm. There we encountered prodigious rains, sweltering heat, millions of mosquitos, and a cunning woodchuck. Though we each had little idea what we were doing at the start, we each suspected that the other guy probably knew better what to do, and somehow we coaxed our little seedlings into sturdy plants and by August had a robust vegetable crop bearing excellent fruit. While we worked, Zach often spoke with reverence of the rugby team, his hopes for the brewing club, his travel plans, and of whether to major in anthropology/sociology or geo, or both. We ate heroic quantities of food at lunch break in the dining hall. Here Zach’s humming enthusiasm gave way to a calm erudite posture, as he’d lean back in his chair with a hand daintily steadying a coffee cup. Then it was back to the fields to till rows, far out in the garden annex. The scarecrow that Zach built routinely freaked me out when I’d be weeding mindlessly for hours staring at the ground and suddenly find myself in its shadow. I can’t remember if it kept the deer away. I’ll always remember Zach a thoughtful, quirky, humble friend. He had a broad vision and ambitious plans for making the world a more verdant place. Hopefully each of us who was affected by him can take some of that vision with us into the future. Fare forward and be well Zach!

  • 2016-02-09 19:55:28
    Kathy Dooley

    Similarly, I think Zach is difficult to describe in a sentence or two, or a story, or even after spending a day with him. He's one of those people with some many interests, dreams, and activities, that the more time you spend with him the more you begin to understand what makes Zach, Zach. At first I associated Zach as a freshman primarily involved in CANOE with a lil farming interest on the side. I slowly learned that the 'little' farming interest was actually huge, and this kid played rugby, had a radio show, was in the orchestra, took a gap year, and was in MUN. In the beginning he struck me as quiet, humble, and perhaps a pinch shy. But once I got to know him he wouldn't stop talking. He had a strong moral conscious and spoke a lot of how things should be - whether in politics, a local debate, or a house decision. Thinking back to our conversations, it also strikes me how much he cared about his friends. My friendship with Zach was definitely centered around CANOE, and when I heard of his passing some of the first people who came to mind I hardly knew. But they have such a vivid association with Zach because he would, time and time again, talk about how great they were, how he looked forward to cooking dinner with them, and his genuine concern for how they were doing. Zach is well known for exploring, and always being up for doing things. I think those traits are attributed both to his pure enthusiasm for adventure and to the people he shared those experiences with. He once told me that the best thing he gained from the spring break WFR course were his friendships with our classmates. He ensured that the Farm-CANOE rivalry continued because he wanted to strengthen the inter-house bond. I can't recall a single time when I proposed we go out and do something and Zach saying no. He was always up for whatever, whether it was exploring around campus, visiting Farm to farm, visiting Farm for other shenanigans, ice cream trips to Hogan Brothers, finding interesting places in Northfield and beyond, leading a canoe trip, or simply sitting in the kitchen planning out ideas for future projects and adventures. He had a strong sense of adventure, curiosity, thoughtfulness, and optimism that I'm sure left an impression on everyone lucky enough to share it with him. Sending my love and best wishes to his family and friends.

  • 2016-02-12 10:32:01
    Claire Kelloway

    Dear Zac,

    I'm sorry it's taken this long for me to say goodbye, and I'm sorry I could not make the memorial last weekend. I s'pose it's because I've always been a little intimidated by you. By your work ethic, the un-boastful way you did important things I could never do like run the Carleton farm and preserve eat the lawn. By your consistently thoughtful and articulate comments in class. We never talked much, but I always admired your accomplishments and heard nothing but exceptional things about your character. Our world lost a great opportunity to be further changed by you, but in some ways I feel blessed to have been a part the impact you already left.

    My sincere condolences and deep respect,
    Claire Kelloway