What would you choose if you could leave a lasting legacy after passing from this earth?
For Casey McIntyre ’07, it was one of kindness and love.
Casey passed away at home in New York on November 12 from stage-four ovarian cancer, her husband, Andrew Rose Gregory, announced on Casey’s X account in the days following. She also leaves behind a young daughter, Grace.
Described as “the brightest of lights” by Agnes Scott College faculty and peers alike, Casey never stopped fighting and advocating for the things she believed in, even when dealing with a cruel diagnosis. A creative in the purest sense of the word, Casey used her platform as a writer and publicist to draw attention to glaring systemic injustices in public healthcare and issues of equity plaguing many people.
Scrolling through her feed–a snapshot in time of a life well lived–you felt like you knew her even if you didn’t. The kind stranger at a party who would ask how you are and mean it. The friend who would give you everything she had.
That was Casey.
That is Casey.
The Impact of a Wish
“If you’re reading this I have passed away.”Casey McIntyre
The rawness of Casey’s pre-planned social media obituary was both brutally painful and beautifully poetic for those who knew her, even knowing this day was soon coming after five months in home hospice care.
However, it was a lasting wish that resonated with people well beyond her immediate sphere of influence: to destroy the medical debt of others.
Partnering with the charity RIP Medical Debt, gifts made in Casey’s honor are being used to erase life-altering medical debt others are currently facing and doing so anonymously.
Casey’s ever-lasting spirit of generosity, even in death, was far from a surprise, but what happened in the days following might be.
Casey’s parting wish was shared among her many circles and began getting picked up by national media outlets. The donations started pouring almost instantly from around the world. In the week since the post, the campaign in Casey’s honor has already raised over $600k, surpassing the largest previous high for a single drive as announced by RIP Medical Debt. And with how the organization buys the bundles of debt at discounted amounts, the approximate value of the debt to be cleared hovers at close to $60 million.
The simple act of one’s selflessness setting many families free.
An Affinity for Agnes and Others
Agnes Scott held a special place in Casey’s heart. She flourished in creative writing and music as a Scottie. She used that passion to pursue roles in the publishing industry, first as a publicist at Penguin Random House and Harper Collins, before eventually settling in as a publisher at Razorbill.
While Casey’s fondness for her alma mater was evident, so was the mutuality of affinity for her from Agnes Scott community members and classmates.
Christine Cozzens, Professor Emerita and former dean of the college, recalls Casey’s collection of poetry for her senior thesis and creative writing during the fall of 2006 as the finest collection she had ever seen from an undergraduate. The passion for perfecting her craft as a writer and creative was easily seen. In the spring of 2007, the Agnes Scott community Orchestra performed “Elegie” for Cello and “Orchestra” by Gabriel Faure. Casey was selected to read her poems as the cello was played by Sarah Mecholsky ’09. Casey’s were the only written works to be featured this way, with the concert titled “To be Buried and Bloom,” a line from her poem.
Sharing that poem once again in honor of Casey feels especially poignant at this moment.
Burying My Mother I think of my mother in her garden, surrounded by mounds of dirt and bulbs. I remember watching her plunge the trowel into the soft earth, her wrinkled fingers pushing and pressing the dirt, making small hand prints in the soil. I would watch her plant, lilies, hyacinth and peonies, and wonder what it must feel like to be buried and bloom.
In addition to her radiating creativity, Casey exemplified authentic leadership qualities, remembers Cozzens. “She made people feel seen, appreciated and connected. She was always laughing and making others laugh.”
Laurel Graefe ’07 acknowledges Casey with influencing her own path to leadership, “I think I can fully credit Casey for the way I try to move about the world as a leader who endeavors to wear the hats of both activist and celebrant.
“Casey, even as a first-year student, was unapologetically informed and engaged in systems issues–ones of justice and equity and generosity–and her impact in those spaces was made much more potent through her easy access to levity and wit,” remembers Graefe. “The way she approached activism always seemed to invite people in, to inform without speaking down to people, to bring new perspectives to spaces in a way that was so subtle, yet so powerful. Her deep love for what is right and her power to lead in a way that was so authentic to her has brought so much good into this world.”
Classmate and close friend Nisha Malani ’07 echoed similar sentiments to Casey’s strengths of connection and encouragement. “For some personal reasons, I strongly considered transferring after our first year at Agnes Scott. But she convinced me I wasn’t going anywhere, and for that, I will always be grateful.
“Agnes Scott is where our friendship blossomed into sisterhood,” Malani continued. “Casey helped me with every big life decision and every mundane one. She pushed me out of my comfort zone every time we were together without ever trying.”
In the dozens of memories and well wishes shared by fellow Scotties online, descriptions of Casey’s joy, wit, kindness, warmth and humor were consistently echoed themes.
“Everything you hear about Casey is true,” adds Cecelia Strong ’06. “She was beautiful and brilliant, kind and so effortlessly cool, and ALWAYS the funniest person in the room. She had the most gorgeous, beaming smile and the most contagious laugh.”
“Even talking about her in the past tense feels so wrong,” says Strong. “She is and will always be one of the most vibrant, generous and special people I’ve ever known, and I’m so lucky to have had her in my life.”
As the campaign in Casey’s memory continues strong, complete strangers will feel the same when told their overwhelming debts have been wiped clean. Even in anonymity, the warmth of Casey’s spirit is being felt.
“We are so proud and in awe of the way this campaign has resonated with people, but it’s not a surprise,” reiterates Strong. “Casey was magical, and this legacy of generosity is exactly who she will forever be.“
To donate to Casey’s RIP Medical Debt campaign, please visit here.
On behalf of the class of 2007, Jayme Walton is collecting donations to a 529 College Fund for Casey’s daughter, Grace. Contact Jayme at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Special thanks to Professor Emerita Christine Cozzens, Professor Tracey Laird, Andrew Rose Gregory, Laurel Graefe ’07, Spring Walker ’07, Nisha Malani ’07, Cecelia Strong ’06, Lizzie Casey ’06, Ruth Grune Gilgenbach ’06, Jayme Walton ’07 and Katie Rubesch Owenby ’05.