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UNC sophomore Molly Rotunda remembered for compassion, loyalty and love


Photo courtesy of McCain Davidson.

UNC sophomore Mary Elizabeth “Molly” Rotunda is remembered by her friends as a force. 

"She walked into a room and everyone knew it. Everyone knew her," UNC sophomore and lifelong friend of Rotunda, Greyson Rainwater said. "She went nowhere that she wasn't known, and the way she made herself known was admirable.”

Rotunda died in a single-vehicle accident during the early hours of Jan. 21 on Raleigh Road in Chapel Hill. She was in the car with two other people, both of whom survived and were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Rainwater said that throughout her life, Rotunda led as a role model and embodied nothing but strength and liveliness.

Rotunda coached a children’s swim team in her hometown of Greensboro and served as the captain of the Grimsley High School varsity women’s soccer team in addition to working as a nanny. She was 20 years old. 

Compassionate, selfless and loyal were common words those closest to Rotunda used to describe her. 

At UNC, Rotunda studied human development and family science. She aspired to work with children after college as a child life specialist, Rainwater said

“I can think of no one that would have been better at that job,” she said.

Among her many roles, Rotunda's passion for her family — affectionately known as “Team Rotunda” — and those she loved was evident, UNC sophomore Bethany Pryor, a friend of Rotunda's, said

Rotunda’s thoughtful nature was something Rainwater said set her apart from others. During one of their annual lake trips, she said Rotunda took extra steps to make Rainwater feel comfortable because she knew she had a fear of boats. 

“Even in situations where things were lighthearted and no one was thinking about your little fears, she was thinking about everything about you, and she was protecting you,” Rainwater said. “She was the most protective person and such a loyal friend.”

McCain Davidson, a friend who worked with Rotunda at her childhood pool, said Rotunda's compassion was evident through her work as a swim coach.

During a practice, Davidson said Rotunda heard a swimmer on the team was being bullied by some of his teammates. The next day, on the child's birthday, Rotunda gathered the team around him to sing happy birthday and asked each person to share one positive thing about him. 

Davidson said that was the first time they ever saw him smile.

“She would do whatever she needed to do in order to make someone else feel good about themselves and feel loved,” Davidson said

Rotunda instilled a sense of confidence and self-worth in the children she coached in an effortless and unfathomable way, Davidson said. On the soccer field, UNC sophomore Ciera Ventura, who grew playing Rotunda in soccer, said she was always uplifting and encouraging to her teammates. 

“She loved so big and so hard,” Ventura said. “Because of that, you could just feel that everybody on her team reciprocated that and not only loved, respected and supported her like that, but they supported each other.”

Davidson said Rotunda, who was two years older than her, made sure to include her in activities when they were returning to in-person school after the COVID-19 pandemic forced students at their high school to attend virtual classes. No matter who was around, she always felt secure with Rotunda, Davidson said.

“There were no social norms or stereotypes or boundaries,” Davidson said. “She just was a bridge and connected everybody, even if they were the two most different people in the world.”

Rotunda was there for her friends no matter what they were going through, Pryor said. When Pryor had a bad day, Rotunda was always the first to reach out in support, she said. 

“She put everyone else first before herself,” Pryor said. “No matter what she was going through, she would always be there for you.”

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Davidson said the love and dedication Rotunda showed her taught her how to care for others in the same way. 

“She taught me how to love myself for who I am and to be true to myself — because that girl was true to herself,” Davidson said

Friends and family honored Rotunda's life on Saturday at Christ United Methodist Church in Greensboro. Rotunda's family requested that any donations be sent to the Greensboro Grimsley Alumni and Friends Association in memory of Rotunda.


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