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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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NYU student’s suicide surprises

The day before she leaped to her death from an NYU building, a promising film student confided to a trusted professor and to her best friend that she was going through rough times.

But Joanne Michelle Leavy gave no indication of the horror to come, the professor and the friend told the Daily News yesterday.

In a “disturbing” e-mail sent Sunday to Leslie Thornton, a professor of media and modern culture at Brown University, her former student said she needed to talk.

Leavy wrote that “she didn’t want to see a shrink — which made me think someone was trying to get her to, or she was and didn’t think it was helping,” Thornton told The News yesterday.

The header of the e-mail was “Think Less.”

Concerned, Thornton wrote back the next day that maybe Leavy would be happier if she left the graduate film program at NYU.

It was unclear whether Leavy, 23, ever saw the reply.

On Monday morning, she ran out of her family’s home and jumped naked off the nearby Tisch building — becoming the sixth NYU student in less than a year to take a death leap.

Hunter College student Alisha Outridge, Leavy’s best friend since high school, said her friend spoke of the overwhelming pressure of film school, work, finances and her diabetes over lunch Sunday.

“The only thing that she said that was different that day was that she wished she could be a kid again and just be herself, that she (wished she) didn’t have all these problems,” Outridge said.

As classes started at NYU yesterday, Leavy’s friends at the school were planning a memorial service for a young woman they described as an intense, talented artist.

The memorial could include displays of Leavy’s work, said Safiya McClinton, a friend.

Thornton, who called Leavy a brilliant student who surely would have been a successful filmmaker, said she believed the troubled young woman acted on the spur of the moment.

“I can’t believe it was particularly premeditated,” Thornton said, whose office became a meeting place for bereaved Brown students yesterday.

“I think five minutes one way or the other could have made all the difference in the world.”

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