Ex-Rocklin woman battled infection, days before her death

Kaitlyn Vasconcellos, left, with her younger brother Craig.
Kaitlyn Vasconcellos, left, with her younger brother Craig. Vasconcellos family

A former Rocklin student died suddenly in her dorm room this week after battling a resurgent infection, her parents said.

Kaitlyn Vasconcellos, 24, was just one final exam away from receiving an undergraduate degree in economics at St. Andrews, Scotland’s oldest university.

Vasconcellos, a 2009 graduate from Rocklin’s Whitney High School, was found dead in her dorm room Tuesday morning, after complaining earlier of stomach pains, according to her father, Guy Vasconcellos. The symptoms were consistent with an infection she battled in late March for over two weeks. Vasconcellos checked into a hospital Sunday, but was later released.

“We’re still awaiting all the information,” her mother, Linda Vasconcellos, said by phone from Scotland on Friday. The autopsy is scheduled to be released Monday, according to her parents.

The university said Friday that Vasconcellos “died suddenly” in her room at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

“Kate had just given her final honors presentation last Friday,” said university Principal Louise Richardson. “I know that her teachers have been shocked and enormously saddened by her death. They will remember Kate as a quiet, thoughtful and determined student with an unfailingly pleasant nature.”

Richardson said that Vasconcellos bubbled with energy and immersed herself in studies and extracurricular activities.

Vasconcellos was passionate about musical theater. Her mother said she initially enrolled in the theater arts program at the University of Southern California, but then decided to pursue an economics degree at St. Andrews.

“She’s adventurous,” Linda Vasconcellos said. “She decided studying out of the country would be a good idea.”

Linda Vasconcellos flew to Scotland to be with her daughter in March, when she battled an infection and then underwent surgery. Doctors never determined the cause of the infection, her parents said, but by all accounts, she was recovering.

Last week, Vasconcellos and her mother talked on Skype for an hour, a day before her thesis presentation.

“She looked perfectly fine though she was a little stressed out from all the work,” Linda Vasconcellos said. “Her thesis was on financial illiteracy among adults across the world. She was on a mission to get people to pay attention to their finances.”

Vasconcellos’ boyfriend, Jonathan Jonas, an English teacher in Galt, said the two had known each other about 10 months. He said they shared a love of theater. “She was educating me quite a bit about Broadway,” he said.

Jonas said he went Scotland to be with Vasconcellos when she had surgery and had planned to return for her June 27 graduation. He said that he last talked with her Sunday after she returned from the hospital and that she said she was feeling better.

Vasconcellos loved Scotland, Jonas said. “She loved the feel of it,” he said, “and the idea of going to a school that was centuries older than even our country.”

On Friday, Whitney High School Principal Debra Hawkins remembered Vasconcellos as “just a sweet, wonderful young lady,” who was in the top third of her academic class and helped establish the school’s theater program.

“She did a great job of blending theater arts with high academics,” Hawkins said. “On top of all of that she was well-known on campus and really nice to absolutely everybody.”

Vasconcellos returned to the school occasionally to mentor students active in theatrical pursuits. She was also involved in Rocklin community theater.

Vasconcellos is also survived by a younger sister, Brooke, and a younger brother, Craig.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

The Bee’s Cathy Locke contributed to this report.

Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.