UMD remembers Sasha McHale

Photo: (Left) Sasha McHale and Dana MacDonald pose together for a photo. Submitted by Dana MacDonald.  

UMD student Alexandra “Sasha” McHale passed away at the age of 23 this past Saturday, due to complications of the autoimmune disease lupus. McHale was diagnosed with lupus a little over a year ago, and was hospitalized for two weeks before her passing.

“We’re all going to miss her.” Sarah Mertz, a close friend to McHale and UMD student said. “She just was a really good friend, I don’t know anyone who met her who didn’t like her.”

McHale was a fifth year senior working towards a degree in communications with a journalism minor. Before her time at UMD she attended Totino-Grace High School in Fridley, Minn. and played varsity basketball for three years.

Others who were close to her mirror Mertz’s description of McHale as an outgoing, fun-loving, genuine friend, whose passing came unexpectedly to those close to her. Diagnosed over a year ago, McHale had to cut studying abroad in Australia short in 2011 after becoming ill.

“She just had an infectious laugh,” friend and classmate Olivia Franti said. “She was a joker and she always knew how to make me laugh.”

McHale is described as a person her friends could always count on.

“We’re lucky to have known her.” Franti said. “I want people to know what a true genuine friend she was. There’s a reason she touched all the lives she did.”

No matter how long McHale was a part of someone's life, those who knew her all said how lucky they were to have such great memories.

“I felt really bad, really odd. I don’t want to pretend that I knew her well, but she was in my class, she was one of my students.” UMD communication professor Aaron Boyson said. “It was like someone punched me in the gut, I had just spoken with her.”

During her high school basketball career McHale wore No. 32, the same number her NBA Hall-of-Fame dad, Kevin McHale, wore while playing for the Boston Celtics in the 1980s. Kevin McHale, who got his start playing basketball at Hibbing High School and the University of Minnesota, is also a former executive and coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves and is the current head coach of the Houston Rockets. Her well known father made her death national news. The Houston Rockets announced Monday that players will wear green armbands, Sasha's favorite color, to honor their coach's daughter. The team will also be flying to the Twin Cities on Wednesday to attend her memorial service.

“She just had a spark.” Mertz said. “Now we tell each other that we love each other, because you never know.”

Sasha McHale is survived by her parents Lynn and Kevin, a sister and three brothers.

For those who need support during this time, there is a regular grief support group that meets from 4-5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in Kirby 311. For more information contact Barb Titus at


If you have a favorite story or favorite memory of Sasha, please feel free to add it to the comment section below.

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