Saint Vincent College (SVC) professor Laura Wilkinson, 36, was found dead in Cook Township woods Sunday. The cause and manner of the death have not been determined, though state police say foul play is not suspected.
Wilkinson, who was a laboratory manager, work-study coordinator and chemistry lab teacher, was last seen at her home Wednesday morning. On Saturday, her van was found in a field near Cavern Road in Cook Township. Her body was found in the woods near to her van by volunteer searchers around 8 a.m., according to the Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office.
“The entire Saint Vincent College community is mourning the death of Laura Riddle Wilkinson, a 2002 graduate of Saint Vincent College who had served as laboratory manager and work-study coordinator and taught chemistry labs in the Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing for the past ten years,” read a statement from SVC.
“We are sending our prayers and offering any assistance we can to her husband, Jay, their children, her twin sister, Rachel McDermot, and to their family,” said SVC president, Br. Norman W. Hipps. “Campus ministers and counseling staff are available to members of the campus community, as are residence life staff. Plans are being made for a memorial service, and arrangements will be shared with the community as soon as they are available to allow students, faculty and staff to support her family and friends in their loss.”
“A loss such as the death of Professor Laura Wilkinson is terribly profound and will have a long and lasting impact on the faculty, staff, and students at Saint Vincent College,” said Seton Hill University president, Mary Finger. “The Seton Hill community has tremendous empathy for our friends and colleagues in the Saint Vincent community. We offer them our continuing prayers and support in this very difficult time. We also pray in a special way for the family of Professor Wilkinson, and will be offering our Sunday 7 p.m. Mass for her and her family.”
“Laura was a rock, a pillar of strength and support for the biology and chemistry departments,” Dr. Bruce D. Bethke, associate professor of biology at SVC, said. “Always looking to assist, never complaining, ever competent, Laura was the glue that held us and our programs together. She leaves an enormous void in our hearts and those of her students. We will miss her dearly.”
A public memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. March 19 in the Saint Vincent Basilica followed by a meeting with the family in the Parish Assembly Room.