At only 26 years old, nutrition graduate student Beatrice Elaine Lunday had already made a lasting impact both in her community and the world.
In January 2015, Lunday was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma, which originates in the brain. After returning home for chemotherapy treatments and six weeks of radiation, she returned to Cal Poly as a full-time graduate student, determined to graduate and use her passion for nutrition to help others. Lunday died from the cancer on Feb. 14 in Monument, Colorado.
“She was insanely passionate and driven,” sister Meghan Lunday said. “She always knew exactly what she wanted, and she worked so hard to make it happen.”
On campus, Lunday served as the production manager at Cal Poly Chocolates, a student-run enterprise that she had been involved with since her undergraduate years. She devoted much time to expanding Cal Poly Chocolates from its humble beginnings, and the business saw a substantial increase in production capabilities during Lunday’s service. Lunday also worked at the popular San Luis Obispo chocolate shop, Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates.
Lunday’s influence extended globally to the third-world country of Malawi, where she was one of the first to volunteer as a research assistant to Cal Poly nutrition professor Peggy Papathakis. For three months in 2014, Lunday assisted with data collection and oversaw natal clinics participating in a research study led by Papathakis and Mark Manary of Project Peanut Butter — a nonprofit that combats global malnutrition.
The study aimed to discover the best treatment for malnourished pregnant women that would promote the birth of healthy babies with a higher survival rate. Lunday and fellow researchers distributed a nutritional peanut butter supplement to the pregnant women and analyzed dietary intake, determining its relative benefit to both the mother and newborn.
“She loved working with women,” Lunday (sister) said. “It was something she really enjoyed, and Malawi helped steer her in that direction.”
Lunday presented findings from the study at the Agricultural Research Institute’s 15th Annual Research Showcase in 2015.
“She was quite passionate about using her experiences to ultimately become a registered dietician, specifically for the dietary treatment of cancer. She wanted to help others who were struggling,” Papathakis said.
After she returned from Malawi in Fall 2014, Lunday integrated her experiences from there with her passion for addressing malnutrition and lack of maternal care in a service-learning group project for Appropriate Technology for the World’s People: Development (UNIV 391). Collaborating with fellow students Kylie Garcia and Cara House, Lunday proposed the creation of “Babies On Our Breasts International Enterprise,” a group intended to provide education for mothers, prenatal clinics and communities that promote early breast feeding.
According to her mother, Edee Charlton, Lunday discovered a love for nutrition throughout childhood. Witnessing her older brother with brain cancer also spurred her interest in health and medicine.
“As she grew older, she wanted to learn how to keep people healthy so that they never had to have some of the diseases she saw,” Charlton said.
Outside of her academic and professional pursuits, Lunday taught at a children’s church at the Center for Spiritual Living in Castle Rock, CO and was an active dragon boat rower for SurviveOars, a dragon boat team in Morro Bay for women with or recovering from cancer.
Despite ongoing chemo, anti-seizure therapy and pain treatment, Lunday completed her graduate coursework with a 3.5 GPA. She had written 50 pages of her thesis on dietary intake of pregnant women in Malawi before passing away, and posthumously received her M.S in nutrition.
“She was empowering. She pushed people to be the best they could be,” Charlton said.
To eternalize her legacy at Cal Poly and honor her achievements, faculty and Lunday’s family are working to establish the Beatrice Lunday Memorial Scholarship Fund. If you would like to contribute to the fund, visit giving.calpoly.edu.