Bija Sass ’95 died on February 21, 2023, in Orinda, California.
(The following was provided by the Legacy Remembers on March 13, 2023)
Bija Sass, beloved daughter, sister, aunt, and friend, passed away on February 21, 2023, at the age of 49. Bija’s journey through life was marked by adventure, compassion, and a fierce determination to make a positive impact on the world around her.
Born on April 7, 1973, Bija grew up in Montclair, NJ, graduating from Montclair High School in 1991. She attended Bowdoin College, double majoring in psychology and French, spending a year abroad in France before graduating in 1995.
After graduating from college, her lifelong journey of adventure continued as a through-hiker on the Appalachian Trail, where she hiked from south to north. Bija joined the Peace Corps, where she assisted indigenous people in Papua New Guinea, establish a sustainable tourism lodge. Her love of nature and her desire to make a difference in the lives of others drove her to lead outdoor programs for at-risk youth in Utah, and to teach in an early education program in Seattle, Washington.
In 2002, Bija spent her first season at McMurdo station in Antarctica. She would eventually spend sixteen seasons on “the Ice” over a span of twenty years, doing everything that needed doing, but mostly keeping people safe. At the time of her death, she was a field supervisor, helping researchers and crew stay safe while enabling important research. All along the way Bija built a beautiful life and a community and home on “the Ice.”
Bija’s commitment to making a positive impact on the world led her to join Doctors Without Borders, where she worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo, providing medical care and aid to those in need. Her work with this organization and time spent volunteering in Ladakh, Nepal and Christchurch, New Zealand, after the 2011 earthquake exemplified her commitment to social justice and her deep compassion for others.
Bija maintained a deep love and passion for the outdoors and in her “free” time could be found rock climbing, kayaking in the ocean, or running on a trail.
Throughout her life, Bija’s fierce determination and adventurous spirit shone brightly, even in the face of adversity. She battled ovarian cancer with courage and grace, and her strength and resilience inspired all who knew her. Bija is survived by her parents, Lenny and Kathy Sass, her brother Ugyen Sass, sister-in-law Meghan Sass, nieces Vivian and Rosie, sister Chodon Sass, brother-in-law Nate Hyun, nephew Forrest, and niece Pearl.
Bija’s legacy will live on through the many lives she touched and the causes she championed.