Ask people about Madeleine “Maddie” Eiss and one of the first words you’ll hear is “fierce.”
It reflected her grit and competitive nature on the tennis court—and, even more, her commitment to those lucky enough to call her a friend.
“When it came to a tennis match you could always count on her to fight until the very end,” teammate Anna Kan said. “As a friend, she was always there for you in any situation, whether it was someone to laugh with, cry with, or just share an experience… she was always supportive, and excited about whatever news I had to give.”
The campus community today is remembering Eiss, who died earlier this week in her hometown of Clarence Center in western New York. A neurosciences major who hoped to attend medical school, she had just finished her first year at Case Western Reserve.
“Madeleine was always right on top of things,” said her navigator James Eller, interim co-director of Student Advancement & Academic Resources. “Whenever she was asked to submit something, boom, it was done.”
In fact, she impressed Eller so much that he soon began considering her as someone who would be an outstanding Supplemental Instructor, students who so excelled in a course that they could apply to provide support to current students in the following years. He also encouraged her to become a peer educator.
“She was just a great student,” he recalled. “During the interview process, she was just a standout.”
First-year student Clara Todd lived on the same floor as Eiss in their residence hall, and over time began to recognize her unique blend of brilliance, drive and compassion.
“When I was sick during the school year, Maddie would bring me honey with tea,” she recalled. “When I was struggling with homework, Maddie was always there to share her knowledge, and when I was upset about anything, Maddie was there to first tease me–but then of course console me.”
Soccer player Sydney Schenk met Eiss for the first time in the Leutner Dining Hall early one morning. Although she had planned to eat quickly and leave, “we instantly talked like we were old friends.”
As first-year athletes, the two understood one another’s commitments, and could share advice and support, as well as intense Wii contests with other friends, among them Kan and soccer player Jordyn Kelly.
“I am a very competitive person, and Maddie was the only person who gave me a run for my money,” Kelly recalled. “We kept switching between 1st and 2nd place during Just Dance, and every time we played Wii Sports Resorts she absolutely crushed me.”
Friends recalled that one of Eiss’ greatest gifts was her ability to lift others’ spirits, often through humor.
“She was caring, funny and always a great person to be around,” tennis teammate Hannah Kassaie recalled. “I don’t think there was one time that we hung out where she didn’t make us laugh.”
Her frequent doubles partner, junior Nina Hoog, recalled how her intensity lifted others’ play as well.
“She made everyone want to work harder and always supported everyone,” she recalled, “… playing doubles with her for so long, she was always positive, keeping both of us fighting the entire time.”
Despite being a first-year player, her match wins were among the team’s highest; she also made the regional semifinals of the ITA Championships in doubles.
“Maddie had an immediate and powerful impact on our team,” head tennis coach Kirsten Gambrell McMahon said. “Maddie poured her whole heart and soul into being an amazing teammate while also working hard on her game.
Her father, James Eiss, emphasized how much she enjoyed the school, from classes in chemistry and biology to her SAGES courses—including one where she interviewed him about his work as an engineer. But it was the mutual spirit of her teammates that resonated most for him and his wife, Susan.
“She just flourished,” he said. “We were so ecstatic about the way the players helped one another… They were just so amazing.”
Added her coach: “Case Western Reserve was a perfect fit for her and she was a perfect fit for our community.”
Eiss is also survived by a younger brother, Matthew, and younger sister, Monica.
Students who would like support during this time are encouraged to contact counseling services at 216.368.5872. This line is staffed by a counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They also may access mental health visits through TimelyCare. Faculty and staff can access counseling at any time by calling IMPACT Solutions at 1.800.227.6007; you can learn more about their programs at myimpactsolution.com.