Andrews University Announces the Death of Student Whitney Watson

Andrews University has announced the death of one of its students today with the following message posted on the AU website:

We are very sad to announce the death of one of our valued students. The message below is shared with you from the family:

Marilene and Jim Watson’s beloved daughter Whitney died on December 15 on Mt. Whitney in California. She and her parents had spent the weekend in Mammoth and enjoyed some skiing, a favorite family activity. Whitney, who started skiing at two and a half years old, was the best skier and snowboarder of the family. On Monday, her mother Marilene returned to work in Los Angeles, and Whitney and her father set out to climb Mt. Whitney. That night they camped at 10,000 feet, not an unusual altitude for veteran skiers. On Tuesday morning, she did not awaken.

Whitney was a wonderful, talented, always-smiling Christian young woman, who loved and was loved by all her teachers, friends, fellow orchestra members and, of course, family. A sophomore at Andrews University, she was a double major in math and viola performance and planned to follow in her parents' and older sister WayAnne’s footsteps toward a career in medicine. She loved to cook, especially desserts, and could make the best vegan chocolate cake.

Our beloved Whitney--daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin and friend—is asleep in Jesus. Our hearts are broken and our grief is excruciating beyond words. We thank you all for your outpouring of love during this time of unthinkable loss; we very much need and appreciate your prayers.

As a campus we grieve with Whitney's family for the loss of a talented and greatly loved young woman. Please join us in praying for comfort for all those impacted by this huge loss. In her memory and honor, an informal gathering will take place in the Campus MInistries office, located in the Campus Center, on Sabbath, Dec. 19, at 5 p.m. Join faculty, staff and students in sharing their loving memories and supporting one another as we grieve the loss of our beloved student, Whitney.

Whitney's memorial service will be held on Sunday, Dec. 27, at 11 a.m., at the Los Angeles Chinese SDA Church, 3000 W. Ramona Rd, Alhambra, California. An event at Andrews University will be planned in January upon the return of our students and staff to the campus.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

As the parent of a daughter, I cannot fathom the sorrow and devastating loss these parents are experiencing. Prayers for them, and the rest of the family and friends of Whitney.


I was so terribly saddened to hear of this tragedy. I know the parents, Jim and Marilene Watson, and they are some of the nicest people it has ever been my privilege to know. I fondly remember some wonderful Sabbath lunches at their house. I also know the paternal grandparents, Paul and Ruth Watson, who are retired missionaries, committed and very active Adventists, and extraordinarily sweet and generous people. The entire Watson and Wang extended families have my prayers and my deepest sympathies.


God bless you, Mr. Read.

By all means, the most likely cause. Tragic loss.


Mine eyes have been a bit watery thinking of this horrible loss of a precious daughter in such circumstances (I love the out doors, and I know that 10,000’ camping spot for hikers, and the other larger area at the 12,000’ mark). I have two girls, and this story touches home especially close.


As a mother who has lost an adult daughter, my heart goes out to the parents in the loss of their girl. May The Lord be with them as they come to terms with the loss in the days ahead.


Newspaper: Heart of Mammoth

“According to her father, who was both the hiking partner and reporting party, she had always wanted to hike the Mt. Whitney trail. Her father also indicated that both he and his daughter were experienced hikers, including hiking in winter conditions. They set out Monday mid-day with no intention of summitting; rather they just wanted to go as far as they could safely and return.”

“By early evening they reached Outpost Camp, where they decided to camp for the evening. Her father indicated that the 18-year old had been experiencing a headache; when he woke up the following morning she was deceased.”

I cannot imagine the horrific shock, sorrow and self-blame of the father finding his daughter unresponsive for the breakfast morning call.

Outpost Camp is about 3.5 miles from the trail head parking about about 10,000 feet. I can vision the area having summitted 7 times. At this elevation it is uncommon (nothing is impossible), as I have experienced, to have altitude sickness, other then dizziness and shortness of breath.


As the mother of two daughters and two granddaughters, we always think of them at such a time and it is impossible to imagine their grief and loss.

As mentioned earlier, a headache is the first sign of altitude sickness and the warning to descend to a lower altitude.

While a headache is often associated with altitude sickness which can lead to the more serious condition of cerebral edema or HAPE, it is also extremely common to generate a headache when climbing a mountain and exerting, especially in winter weather conditions. My point being that there are many many conditions that can cause a headache and we all should withhold our speculation until more information is known from the medical examiner. Right now the family is hurting and grieving and all sorts of self blame comes in to play as a father with medical training comes to grief over his daughter’s tragic passing. We would all do well to avoid our casual speculation which can only make that grief more painful and bring on that much more second guessing by the family. This father is one I know well who is not one to take on a risky pursuit casually without being well prepared. This was simply a tragedy that none of us can understand or explain. I personally have never climbed a mountain (including Whitney several times) without getting a headache somewhere in the process, so it really is not an unusual symptom.


My husband summited Mt. Whitney three times. Each time, however, he would spend two nights camping at the trailhead campground, in order to become acclimated to the altitude. It’s a terrible thing to become sick from the altitude, but descending is the only sure cure.