Stacy Anker, Medieval History MA student, 1986-2020
In July 2020, the Institute for Medieval Studies (IMS) mourned the death of our MA student Stacy Anker, who died on 14 July 2020, aged 33, following battles with both coronavirus and cancer.
After graduating from Ardsley High School (2004), Stacy majored in history at the University of Rhode Island (2004-8). She later resumed her historical studies at Mercy College (2014-16) in her home town of Dobbs Ferry, New York, before travelling to the School of History at Leeds to study on the MA in Medieval History in 2017.
Unusually for a student beginning MA study, Stacy had by this time already given papers at several conferences, including one entitled 'Dealing with Death: The Black Death and the Peasants' Revolt in 14th-Century England' at the 2017 International Medieval Congress. Iona McCleery, who directed the MA programme at the time and with whom Stacy met up during the Congress, recalls how 'she was so keen to get going on her studies. It was great to meet her'.
On arrival at Leeds, Stacy swiftly became one of the most involved members of the postgraduate community, regularly attending research papers and other events. The shared office for IMS postgraduates, the Le Patourel Room, became Stacy's second home, and many members of the IMS reminisce fondly about working alongside her there. As well as commencing her compulsory study of Latin and research methods with vigour, Stacy chose to study modules on 'Christian Society and the Crusades' and 'Lifecycles'. Guy Perry, who taught her on the former module, characterises the beginning of Stacy's studies as a 'highly enjoyable period', emphasising Stacy's 'characteristic warmth and good humour'.
Stacy's health problems became apparent already during her first semester, but even while in hospital, both in the UK and subsequently in the US, Stacy continued her studies, and fellow students helped her access her notes and books. Stacy continued to be active in the life of the IMS, for example participating in the IMS's activities in the Leeds University public outreach event 'Be Curious' in March 2018, and planning the topic of her MA thesis, which was to be on Vikings in ninth-century England.
Stacy returned to the USA for treatment before completing her MA year, but, as another of her teachers, Melanie Brunner, notes, 'she remained an active presence in the department even after she returned home, and many of the students who came to Leeds afterwards knew and admired her, even if they never met her in person'. Stacy kept up with life in Leeds via the IMS's Facebook groups - 'always supportive of others' accomplishments', in the words of her fellow student Victoria Yuskaitis, who sent her a conference programme for the International Medieval Congress every year so that Stacy could keep an eye on what her fellow medievalists were up to.
Any account of an individual as energetic as Stacy would inevitably only reflect a part of her many activities. In May 2018, Leeds students organised a tea party to raise funds for Swim Across America, Stacy's chosen charity, which reflected another important part of her life. Alongside her mother Judy, Stacy had been involved with the Long Island Sound Chapter of Swim Across America since 2005, raising money to fund cancer research and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She described the annual swims as 'the absolute highlight of my summer'.
Stacy long outlived initial prognostications, and throughout her battle with cancer she remained optimistic and focused on the future. She often spoke about looking forward to returning and finishing her studies at Leeds, and was formally keeping this channel open in the academic year in which she died.
In the words of her fellow students, 'Stacy was a larger than life character in our MA year ... She always lit up the room, and we all know how much she loved her studies' (Lucy Guest). 'She told me she wanted to go back to Leeds and finish her degree "more than anything". I think that alone speaks to her love for our studies as well as the IMS, in which she clearly found a welcoming community of like-minded people' (Jarrik Van Der Biest). 'She was so happy to be studying a subject she was passionate about and her enthusiasm was incredibly uplifting' (Eleanor Wilkinson-Keys). 'What I cherish most about Stacy is her passion. Whether it be for the New York Rangers, her faith, the movie Labyrinth, her research on the Vikings, or the love she felt for her friends, Stacy had unwavering enthusiasm for everything she cared about. She had a heart so kind and open that nobody was ever just a colleague or an acquaintance to Stacy; if you met Stacy, you instantly had a good friend. She made a lasting impact on the IMS and everyone who was lucky enough to meet her' (Florence Scott).
Stacy was a vibrant and energetic presence in the Institute from the moment she arrived in Leeds, always ready to get involved and to help out. Her enthusiasm and dedication will be missed by us all.