Remembering former Lions volleyball player Kat Westbrook


Former Lions volleyball player Kat Westbrook accumulated 151 kills and 58 digs in the 2012 season.

By Vivi Smilgius

A key contributor to Emerson’s women’s volleyball team, Katherine Westbrook ‘16 died of a fall on March 8, at the age of 28 years old.

“She was a very vibrant young woman. She had a lot of talents, a lot of gifts,” said her mother, Liesel Hughs Westbrook. “She was our light.”

Born and raised in South Carolina, Westbrook became a two-time volleyball state champion in high school. She was also involved in theater and church, but her love for volleyball and passion for writing led her to Emerson in 2012.

At Emerson, Westbrook studied creative writing and became a published poet. She played on the volleyball team as part of current head coach Ben Read’s first recruiting class at the college; Read would later remember Westbrook’s positive attitude, saying she was “always smiling, always happy.”

As a first-year player, Westbrook was part of Read’s Great Northeast Athletic Conference-winning team and competed in the NCAA tournament. She accumulated 151 kills and 58 digs in the Lions’ historic 2012 season. Throughout her time on the volleyball team, she played at various positions and was dedicated to doing what she could for the team’s success, Read said.

“We asked a lot of that freshmen group because so many people graduated from the year before,” he said. “She was always willing to do whatever she could to help her team and get on the court.”

Westbrook’s mother said her daughter’s positive attitude and willingness to help were qualities she carried through all walks of life and in all circles of people.

“Katherine was a giver,” Hughs Westbrook said. “She would always take care of whoever was in her life in whatever way she could—she’d always be there to lend them an ear. She was very empathetic to people’s feelings and whatever they were going through.”

Read said his team had discussed wanting to do something to remember Westbrook on and off the court. While none of his current players knew her personally, Westbrook’s death impacted the Emerson volleyball community significantly, he said.

“It’s definitely hit a lot of us hard,” Read said. “It was really nice to hear our current team say they would like to do something to help out and honor her.”

This impact is one felt by many, including Westbrook’s family and friends.

“I’ve heard so many stories about her since she passed, from people that I don’t even know,” her mother said. “She was leaving her mark, she was making her life. And it just got cut very short.”