Obituary: Liz Colletta, longtime accounting employee, 55

Liz Colletta at Busch Stadium. (Courtesy photo)

Elizabeth (Liz) Colletta, a 31-year employee of Washington University in St. Louis, died Monday, April 15, 2024. She was shot at her St. Louis home in an incident of domestic violence. She was 55. 

Colletta served as co-manager of Sponsored Projects Accounting, a little-known but essential department charged with managing nearly $1 billion in university awards, grants and contracts from the government, foundations and private entities.

Laureen Alexander, lead grants specialist, said Colletta was great with both numbers and people. She understood the complex financial reporting practices, government rules and university policies that govern research agreements and could patiently and tactfully explain to researchers the ins and outs of their grants.

“None of it is easy, but Liz loved solving problems,” said Alexander, one of a dozen grant specialists who reported to Colletta. “The wealth of knowledge in her brain was incredible. She would just look at something and know what needed to be fixed.” 

“She was the one who always wanted to find the missing penny,” added Lindsay Danner, Sponsored Projects Accounting manager. “She understood that our information, whether it be financial or contractual, must be precise and accurate.” 

But what made Colletta special was not her accounting acumen, but the kindness and concern she showed every colleague, Danner said. 

“She led with such grace and patience and loved getting to know everybody as an individual,” Danner said. “She would email people out of the blue to say, ‘You’re doing great things. Keep it up,’ or ‘I’m so glad you’re here.’ I know everyone says their office is like a family; Liz really believed it.” 

Alexander said the same attention Colletta gave to her work, she bestowed on her colleagues. 

“She always had time for a personal conversation,” Alexander said. “You’d stick your head in her office and say, ‘My daughter just had a baby’ or tell her about something happening in your family, and she’d stop whatever she was doing to give you a big hug and want to know all of the details.” 

Danner said Colletta was a hippie at heart. She loved gardening, yoga and being in nature. She also enjoyed hip hop dancing, “The Walking Dead” and Italian food. Most of all, she loved her four grown children, Walter, Isaiah, Uriah and Imani Young, and her grandson. 

“They were everything to her,” Danner said.

Colletta also loved WashU. She joined the university in 1993 as a cashier and worked in Student Financial Services before joining Sponsored Projects Accounting in 1998. 

“She really valued her piece of the process of serving the greater good,” Danner said. “She was so interested in the work these grants funded and always so excited when there was an awesome new discovery. Liz would say, ‘I’m a part of curing cancer.’ And she was. She made this work possible.”

A memorial Mass took place May 10 at the Shrine of St. Joseph. A GoFundMe account has been established to help Colletta’s children with funeral and other expenses. 

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