May 22, 1990 – December 20, 2021
There could never be enough time, and there are simply not enough words, to sufficiently capture the legacy, love, and lasting impact of Angelica Ceniceros’ life. This is an attempt.
Born May 22, 1990, in Yuma, Arizona, Angelica was raised by her mother, Manuela Cecilia Coronado Tapia, in the nearby town of San Luis. Their relationship is impossible to articulate – more than that of a single mother and her daughter, Angelica and Cecilia were a two-person team against the world. Cecilia, an elementary teacher, raised Angelica to be smart, strong, kind, and compassionate, and the two were constantly sharing their lives in the best and worst of times. The caliber of person that Angelica was can be traced directly back to the heart of a mother who spent a lifetime raising a woman who now brings pride to so many and, though her life was ended on Monday, December 20, 2021, the effects Angelica had on the world in 31 years defined by curiosity, wonder, charity, compassion, humility, and an unending drive to overcome challenges set in her wake, will undoubtedly ripple forward and keep her memory alive.
Angelica was a voracious reader from childhood – she was always curious to learn about the world around her and to get a better understanding of diverse arts, cultures, and people. Her favorite book was The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton, which perhaps began a lifelong fascination with what Angelica understood to be underdogs. She liked sad stories, and particularly those where kind-hearted people fought to overcome some inevitable tragedy. Maybe she could relate to that idea; of outcasts fighting against the odds to overcome fate and nature. That is, in many ways, how she lived and what she achieved.
At a young age she began to exhibit many of the characteristics that would define her: she possessed a depthless amount of selflessness that ensured she would never meet a stranger; she provided an unending amount of patience and love for those around her, as seen in the countless lifelong friendships she developed with classmates, coworkers, and community members throughout her life; and, most remarkably, she perpetually offered herself to the world as somebody who could always spare time to care for the needy – whether they were students she could mentor at local schools, community organizations that needed a volunteer, or for the stray, wounded, or abandoned animals she would take in.
An exemplary student, Angelica was valedictorian of San Luis High School and worked tirelessly from modest beginnings to earn academic scholarships to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard (always humble, when asked, she would only tell people that she went to school “out East”).
The move to the frigid East Coast was not always easy for her, as she never quite learned how to walk in the snow or on ice, but she made the best of her temporary home by forging deep friendships, excelling in her undergraduate studies in the field of aerospace engineering, and exploring Boston in spite of its relentless winters. During this time she received the Lockheed Martin Prize for Excellence in Systems Engineering Teamwork and the General Electric Internship Recognition. She also received sought-after positions with the US Air Force Summer Faculty Fellowship Program as a researcher, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Sample Return Mission as a researcher, and an internship with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, among others.
After college, Angelica traveled to Spain where she taught English for a year. Her time in Europe would leave a lasting impression, as she returned to explore the continent several times throughout the remainder of her life. She loved Catalonia, Amsterdam, Glasgow, and traveled several times to Dublin – most recently in November of 2021. Soon, however, she returned home to Arizona to continue her education as a graduate student at the University of Arizona’s aerospace engineering department. Returning to the desert was a relief, as she was closer to her family, to the Sonoran Desert, and to the flora and fauna that she loved so much. Shortly after returning she adopted three cats – Negro, Gatita, and Kittyberto, who had previously been deemed “unadoptable” due to their diagnoses of feline HIV and cancer - and provided them with a caring home.
Angelica planted roots and built the foundation of a promising life and career in Tucson. She found her favorite theater in the Loft, was a regular at local farmer’s markets and coffee shops, and could recommend a local restaurant for any palette at the drop of a hat. She enjoyed lunch at Beyond Bread followed by shopping at Bookman’s, and then finding time on the weekend to bring a book to a local coffee shop for tea and a scone. She volunteered at the Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter, and always made a point of volunteering at local high schools and elementary schools to mentor young people looking to join her pursuit of a career in STEM fields.
Shortly after finishing graduate school, she began working for Raytheon Technologies. She was proud of her job and excelled in her time with the company. A tireless worker and a passionate perfectionist, her work could never be good enough in her own eyes and yet she was frequently recognized for her work by colleagues and external organizations, most notably in her receipt of the National Women of Color STEM Rising Star Award in 2020. At the time of her passing she had also been nominated for other awards in the field. Angelica would be prouder to have it noted that she made many of her closest friends at Raytheon.
She met her fiancé, Patrick Griffin, in 2018. They remained in a relationship for the remainder of
her life, buying a house together in East Tucson and adopting their cat, Llorón, who had arrived on her doorstep stray and malnourished. Together, Angelica and Patrick traveled the world and made the most of a time that would ultimately be cut far-too short.
Despite her success and an exhaustive, self-imposed schedule comprising her work, her relationship, her charity, and her community events, Angelica always found time to share herself with her friends, fiancé, and, of course, her mother. She enjoyed baking, and always brought a comical bounty of sweets to any event, no matter how small. Those closest to her will remember her childlike laugh, accompanied by a smile that could lift monsoon clouds, her sense of dry (if not sometimes morbid) humor, her passion to succeed and never-ending challenge to experience, explore, and better understand the world around her.
Angelica is survived by her mother, Cecilia, and her fiancé, Patrick, as well as a myriad of colleagues, cohorts, classmates, childhood friends, and charity organizers who will forever cherish her memory and, with hope, live in her example of curiosity, wonder, charity, compassion, humility, and an unending drive to overcome life’s challenges – now to include a world lacking of her light.