Around the Institute

Honoring Our Beloved Colleague Savilla Pitt

January 25, 2021  • Aspen Digital

Beloved Aspen Digital colleague Savilla Pitt died on Saturday, January 16, from complications due to pancreatic cancer, family by her side. She was diagnosed only on December 31, making this a final cruel legacy of a very hard and terrible year.

Colleague Savilla Pitt (center) in happier times with Aspen Digital teammates (left to right) Dominique Harrison, Beth Semel, Tricia Kelly, and Kristine Gloria, January 2020

Savilla (center) in happier times with Aspen Digital teammates (left to right) Dominique Harrison, Beth Semel, Tricia Kelly, and Kristine Gloria, January 2020

Savilla was an extraordinary, unforgettable mix of an adventurous, sun-addicted West Coaster and a staid Brit with a biting wit and a need to organize things. She was our beating heart, our moral compass, and our conscience. She was there for every one of us for any reason.

She gave generously and without restraint. Savilla remembered every birthday, organized happy hours and life cycle celebrations, baked for the Aspen cookie swap, responded to every call for volunteers (eagerly taking the earliest morning shift), and diligently kept the office apprised of leftover food in the kitchen. If you worked at a program she was leading, she checked every ten minutes to make sure you had eaten.

Savilla joined Aspen in the fall of 2018 to ‘wrangle’ our growing cybersecurity program, as she playfully described in her Twitter bio. Coming to Washington and working on cybersecurity were two of her big career goals. She immediately proved her dedication and interest to us when she sneakily flew — completely unnecessarily — to D.C. to interview with us in the fall, figuring that she had a better chance at selling herself in-person.

She led our team through three Aspen Cyber Summits — in San Francisco, New York, and most recently virtually this past December — and a half-dozen high-stress Aspen Cybersecurity Group meetings. The 2019 Summit, in particular, was Savilla’s show. She personally took a train to New York to tour multiple venues and then handpicked the final choice: The Jazz at Lincoln Center. There, she was in her element, managing things like a combination of a drill sergeant, orchestra conductor, and cat herder.

Colleague Savilla Pitt (back row, far right) on a morning hike with the Aspen Cybersecurity Group, Maroon Bells in Aspen, summer 2019

Savilla (back row, far right) on a morning hike with the Aspen Cybersecurity Group, Maroon Bells in Aspen, summer 2019

Savilla also was instrumental in helping to hand select each of the Aspen Tech Policy Hub’s previous classes of fellows, carefully working to identify promising would-be policy leaders. She was also on the selection committee for the Hub’s COVID-19 challenge grant, and as the initiative’s 2020 programming went fully virtual, Savilla seamlessly orchestrated both of their demonstration series. There’s hardly a corner of our program she hasn’t touched, improved, or shaped.

Savilla’s intrinsic dedication to the team and our work inspired us all; she was always the first to show up to prepare for an event — hard at work before anyone else arrived organizing, perfecting, and neatening so that everything would go flawlessly. She took great pleasure and pride in the work we do. Over the last year, as we merged and morphed into Aspen Digital and all transitioned to Zoom and virtual events, Savilla’s attention and desire for perfection never wavered.

Savilla loved and explored Washington right up until the last minute; she loved being here and never doubted that she had made the right decision coming to Aspen. We will forever miss her.

Colleague Savilla Pitt at the Air Force Memorial, January 2, 2021

Savilla at the Air Force Memorial, January 2, 2021

We ask everyone reading this tribute to take a look at the symptoms for pancreatic cancer listed on www.mayoclinic.org and keep an eye out for them.

Savilla is survived by her mother, Connie; father, Malcolm; brother, Kieran, and two cats, Mushu and Grand, who were both the bane of her existence and her constant joy. For those who wish to honor Savilla’s memory, her family suggests making a donation to one of her favorite charities — Capital Area Food Bank and the Nature Conservancy — or to the American Cancer Society or National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation

Those who are able might also consider donating blood platelets in honor of Savilla.* These are literally life or death for cancer patients, and their lengthier donation process and shorter shelf life make it incredibly hard for hospitals to keep them in stock. If Savilla had gotten further into her treatments, she likely would have needed them.

If you knew Savilla and have a memory or other reflection that you would like to share, feel welcome to contact our team at [email protected], and we will pass it along to her loved ones. 

 

*Current policies around blood donation are anti-LGBTQIA+, and we absolutely have to change that policy—in this particular case, we can and should choose a manner of advocacy and protest outside of boycott.