In Memoriam: Sarah E. Grether, 1988-2010

Mackinac Center Intern

Sarah E. Grether

The Mackinac Center family grieves the loss of colleague Sarah Grether, who was tragically killed Friday, Feb. 26, in an auto accident on icy roads west of Midland, Mich.

Sarah began working at the Mackinac Center as a high school intern in 2005. As a college student, her responsibilities at the Center grew to managing the weekly publication of Michigan Education Digest, under the direction of Dr. Ryan Olson. In 2009, she served as a research intern for the Center's Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative.

Sarah exhibited a bold, cheerful inquisitiveness, and her intellect was a delight to engage. We offer our prayers and deepest sympathy to the Grether family.

Joseph Lehman

* * *

I remember the day Sarah walked into the Mackinac Center and offered her services as a volunteer. It didn't take long for us to realize she was no ordinary high school student. It's rare to find a 16-year-old who's interested in public policy; rarer still to find one who's as articulate, passionate and capable as Sarah. She quickly earned the respect and trust of colleagues twice her age.

Sarah had a maturity and wisdom beyond her years. She also had a deep compassion for others and a wonderful sense of humor. I will greatly miss our conversations about life, theology and the best ways to coax an unruly cat into model behavior. Her passing is a tremendous loss to all those fortunate enough to have known her. To Sarah's parents, her sister, and all those who loved her, I offer my deepest sympathies.

Godspeed, Sarah. Save me a place at the table.

Patricia Benner
Vice President for Operations

* * *

Sarah was kind and thoughtful. I will miss her gentle spirit.

Daniel Montgomery
Marketing and Design Director

* * *

The last time I talked to Sarah, we were laughing. She had just sent me a hyperlink to a sublimely funny story in the Onion: “Modern-Day Martin Luther Nails 95 Comment Cards To IHOP Door.” In the article, the high dudgeon of the would-be reformer was hysterical — “This house is no longer a house of pancakes; it is a house of lies!” — and Sarah and I were swapping our favorite lines from the piece so we could laugh at them all over again.

I am happy to remember her smiling; she had a great smile. Her acute appreciation, as a 21-year-old, of a parody involving the Reformation somehow captures the unusual blend of intelligence and good humor that made her such a pleasure to know.

And I thank her again for the joke. It serves, as Kipling surmised, in a time when jests are few.

With heartfelt sympathies to Sarah’s family,

Thomas Shull
Senior Editor

* * *

The world gets many things very wrong, and this tragedy is one of them. It was just a horrible trick of fate that nothing can mitigate.

Yet the world also gets some things very right. Sarah’s cheer and wit in the face of challenges that would have made many morose and bitter were a gift to all who knew her.

But for me, the most right thing of all, and Sarah’s most striking quality, was her courage. The first few times I encountered it, I thought, “That girl is either foolishly reckless or very gutsy.” I learned she was no fool: She believed in the things she did, knew the risks and did them anyway, because of pure courage.

Her living legacy is the inspiration her courage provides for all who knew her, and the standard it sets for her peers.

Jack McHugh
Senior Legislative Analyst

* * *

Sarah Grether was a courageous and very gracious young woman who will be sorely missed. I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah during her first internship at the Mackinac Center, when she quickly established herself as a trusted, diligent researcher. Indeed, I hired her last summer in the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative based on the strength of her performance that first year.

While I spent many hours working with Sarah side-by-side, my fondest memories of her involve the conversations we shared after-hours about her formal education. She once told me that she was deprived of a recess by an elementary school teacher for choosing to read Charles Murray’s “What It Means to be a Libertarian” for a classroom assignment. Apparently the teacher was concerned about her young charge’s political views and felt compelled to talk seriously to Sarah while the other kids played outside.

Sarah told me that the clashes continued with some of her college professors, with whom she had polite but rigorous debates. Having listened to Sarah’s close analysis of public policy and to her discussions with others, I can attest that she had an exceptional insight into the world.

She was a bright light darkened too soon.

Michael LaFaive
Director of Fiscal Policy

* * *

I first met Sarah when she was a junior at Midland’s Dow High School, where I spent a year as a substitute teacher, including several stints in Dow’s journalism classes. Sarah was on the school newspaper staff and wrote a column from a libertarian perspective. Her independent nature and critical thinking were refreshing in a sea of students often concerned only about the latest fashions and the next party.

It was a happy coincidence that we both ended up at the Mackinac Center, first working together in the Education Policy Initiative. She was a pleasure to know professionally and personally, even serving on occasion as a friendly and responsible babysitter.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Sarah’s family.

Ted O'Neil
Communications Associate

* * *

I had the pleasure of working with Sarah, but for only a few months. In that short time, I came to realize she was a good person and wise beyond her years. I am better for having known her.

Kathy Hoekstra
Communications Specialist

* * *

Each intern we employ leaves a mark on the fabric of the Mackinac Center family. Some interns, like Sarah, we are lucky enough to have more than one year. She will long be remembered for her excellent mind and fantastic sense of humor — and her frequent smile, which was a mile wide. We no longer saw her daily, but thanks to Facebook, we were often updated on her life, and on her frequent postings of scripture she found meaningful.

The Mackinac Center family grieves with the Grether family. We also take great comfort in Sarah’s unshakable faith in the goodness of God. We ask His special blessings on the Grether family as we say Godspeed to our dear friend — a most precious one of His children.

Kendra L. Shrode
Assistant to the President

* * *

Sarah had many gifts, but it was her generous spirit that made her such a blessing. Because of her love for God and humanity, her intelligence became insight, her wit brought laughter and her ambition was to make the world a better place.

Sarah determinedly pursued truth and selflessly served those around her. I’d say she accomplished her ambition.

You know the words, dear friend: “I picture you in the sun/ … May God’s love be with you.”

Hannah Mead
Assistant Editor

* * *

I met Sarah in the summer of 2006 while interning at the Mackinac Center, and I have been lucky to call her a friend ever since. Reducing to a pithy statement the considerable impact that Sarah has had on my life is a task far beyond my ability, but I owe it to her to try my best.

Sarah’s spirited individualism was an inspiration to all who had the good fortune to know her. She understood that reason and kindness are not mutually exclusive, that good will is made possible through freedom and that questioning authority is not merely permissible, but a virtue — the very essence of what it means to be human.

She was wise well beyond her years.

Sarah did not typecast her friends and acquaintances, but embraced their uniqueness and celebrated their individuality. She always treated people with dignity and respect.

Perhaps Sarah’s most admirable quality was her ability to remain optimistic in a world where there is no shortage of corruption and prejudice. For those of us who love liberty, it is easy to be discouraged by the state of things. But Sarah reminded me to behold the abundance of beauty in this world, to find hope in the splendor of human achievement and to never take for granted the opportunity to make this world a better place.

Sarah had the confidence to stand up for her beliefs. She had the courage to fight the good fight.

Sarah’s passing is a terrible loss for the freedom movement and for her family and friends. I am a better person and a stronger individual because of Sarah Grether. My deepest condolences to her family in this difficult time.

Christina Kohn
Former Mackinac Center Intern

* * *

Sweet and funny Sarah … gone too soon.

Sarah was such a bright, vivacious young lady. I had the honor of having her for a cubicle neighbor in her early years as an intern. We enjoyed each other’s quirky sense of humor, joking around and making each other laugh.

I fondly remember when Sarah would sneak up on a fellow intern and drop a Kleenex box behind her every day. I knew what Sarah was up to every time I heard that box fall and the intern yelp.

It is just so hard to believe that this beautiful, unique young person is gone. She had so much potential to accomplish more wonderful things in this world.

My prayers are with her family.

LeAnn Hadley
Administrative Assistant

* * *

It never seems fair when young people predecease their parents. Sarah’s death is no different, and my deepest sympathies are extended to her immediate family.

Thy mother’s treasure wert thou;—alas! no longer
  To visit her heart with wondrous joy; to be
         Thy father’s pride:—ah, he
Must gather his faith together, and his strength make stronger.

While Sarah would no doubt appreciate Robert Bridges’ poem, she more than likely would turn to a lyric by her beloved Indigo Girls for consolation. As for me, the only things bringing a smile to my face in this saddest of times are fond memories of Sarah and me rocking out to Patti Smith’s “Gloria” and Television’s “Marquee Moon” behind the closed door of my office, and of the two of us jamming to The Who at my house. These times remind me that Sarah’s calm demeanor and prodigious knowledge of economics and the arts could hide the fact that she was also a young woman full of life, humor and passion.

I remember how the darkness doubled
I recall lightning struck itself
I was listening to the rain
I was hearing something else.

I know Sarah would understand, appreciate and accept this sentiment as the sincerest compliment.

Bruce Edward Walker
Managing Editor of MichiganScience

* * *

I knew Sarah for only a summer, but those who’ve met her will attest it does not take much time for her to make a lasting impression. She was a bright spot in my summer and in my life.

As a new intern, I kept to my cubicle, but she made an effort to introduce herself, talk to me and finally get me out of my “box.” She challenged my other boxes, too, during our long, random and passionate talks about politics, religion, morals and life. I enjoyed her wit and wisdom very much.

I enjoyed her presence on other levels too. When she realized I could take a joke, she delighted in doing everything she could to confuse me or scare me out of my wits with her pranks. I began a list of items involved in our little competition, and it soon included Kleenex boxes, tape and cell phones. I will never forget the laughs we gave each other. Her smug smile of triumph will be forever in my heart.

My prayers are with her family and all who knew her. She will be missed very much.

Shelli Cammenga
Former Operations Intern

* * *

Sarah, a few others and I sort of became the “returning interns.” We never could leave the Mackinac Center for good, and we jumped back in full-time every summer.

This last summer was very special. I’ll never forget our discussions about the love and grace of Jesus Christ and the role it played in both of our lives. We were like brother and sister.

Hymn writer Samuel Trevor Francis’ “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” would probably come closest to describing what we both held most dear:

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Love of ev’ry love the best;
’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’Tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
’Tis a heav’n of heav’ns to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to thee.

Wesley Reynolds
Operations Intern