Senior Naomi Ramirez, a history major, passed away Monday, January 13. She was 22.

Born June 18, 1997, she graduated from Willits High School, where she participated in the Advancement Via Individual Determination program and finalized her dream of attending college. A first-generation student, she enrolled at Chico State in 2015 with aspirations to earn her master’s degree and pursue a career in politics so she could improve the lives of people around her.

Ramirez’s aptitude and passion were clear from the start, as she enrolled in an advanced upper-division class her first semester freshman year, said Steve Lewis, chair of the history department. He initially cautioned her about the class, but she was determined and quickly became one of its highest-achieving students among dozens of juniors and seniors.

“Naomi was truly exceptional,” Lewis said. “She sat in the front row in the middle of the classroom, did the assigned readings, and came to class every day prepared and willing to discuss the material. Her quiz and test scores were stratospheric, and her writing was very good. She had a brilliant memory, absorbed information like a sponge, and her ability to synthesize and analyze information was often astonishing. She was one of the most talented young historians I have encountered in 20 years of full-time teaching.”

Naomi Ramirez sits at a desk for a portrait.
Naomi Ramirez was one of 12 students in 2017 to win the Lt. Robert Merton Rawlins Merit Award, which celebrates scholarship, extracurricular activities, and outstanding academic and professional accomplishments.

Her reputation as a shining star within the major continued to grow as she progressed toward her degree. She continued with her upper-division courses as a freshman and sophomore. As a spring-semester sophomore, she enrolled in a graduate-level reading seminar at the invitation of Professor Robert Tinkler, who had been incredibly impressed with Ramirez’s eloquent and insightful contributions to class discussions and outstanding written work.

“Naomi was a student who carried herself well, whether in the classroom or outside of it. She engaged not only with all the academic material that we the faculty put before her, but also with us personally,” said history professor Dallas DeForest. “She was one of those students who would stop by your office and chat for a while—about a topic of history, or the History Club, or other matters. She had a good sense of humor and, like any good historian, maintained an appropriate degree of skepticism in her general outlook on things. … She was one of our brightest, most promising majors.”

As the History Club faltered, she stepped in as vice president and brought her tremendous energy and organization skills, DeForest said. With her leadership, ambitions, and talent, the club began to thrive, attending out-of-town field trips to historic sites and presenting at a regional conference. She continued to carry its excellence forward the following year as club president, while also involving herself in a number of other academic and extracurricular activities.

Ramirez published her work in The Chico Historian, was a member of the History Honors Society, and presented at the society’s regional conference in 2018. She also was a member of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) and the Student Learning Fee Committee for her college, and an award-winning participant of the Model United Nations team. She earned a Daughter of the American Revolution Good Citizen Award, and in 2017, she was named a recipient of the Lt. Robert Merton Rawlins Merit Award—one of the largest and most prestigious scholarships at Chico State. When she served as the Humanities and Fine Arts student senator in 2017–18, she was incredibly excited to consider the appointment her first service in public office.

She is survived by her mother, Elia, father Israel, and brothers Aaron and Josue. The family has established a GoFundMe to help with funeral expenses and plans to donate any extra funds to Camp Taylor, a camp for children with congenital heart defects.

Services will be held Saturday, January 18 in Willits. A viewing will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at Anker-Lucier Mortuary at 95 Commercial Street, followed by a mass from 1–2 p.m. at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church at 61 West San Francisco Avenue, and then a celebration of life at Willits Community Center at 111 East Commercial Street.

The University flag will be lowered Thursday, January 23, in her memory.