Beloved by so many, Tonya Cesa was a 20-year-old West Virginia University sophomore when she tragically died in a car accident in 2018. Now, her family is honoring her by creating the Tonya R. Cesa Creative Arts Photography Travel Endowment.
“Tonya was full of life, just a really great person,” said Ed and June Cesa, Tonya’s parents. “She was a good student who cherished her faith and family.”
An outdoors lover who grew up hunting and picking blueberries on the Cesa family’s farm, Tonya was an adventurer at heart. She loved horses, running and her German Shepard, Duke.
Tonya always enjoyed the beautiful scenery during her road trips and thrilling experiences including skydiving.
Tonya also loved photography. A photography class at Morgantown High School sparked her interest enough to declare photography as her major at WVU. Tonya talked about using her degree to work in the outdoors with the hopes of becoming a National Geographic photographer.
Combining her love of photography and nature, Tonya was very much looking forward to taking the Jackson Hole Photography Workshop through WVU’s School of Art & Design Global Positioning Studies program. The 10-day intensive field course lets photographers explore the remote region through their lens.
It was a trip Tonya never got to take, but one that sparked the idea for the Tonya R. Cesa Creative Arts Photography Travel Endowment. Kayla Cesa, Tonya’s sister and adventure partner, originally thought of the idea to honor her in this way.
Tonya’s four siblings are all WVU alumni – Zachary, 2013; Nicole, 2015; Michelle, 2018; and Kayla, 2018 (pictured right, with Tonya). Their shared connection to WVU made the university the right place for the family to honor their youngest member’s memory.
“The Jackson Hole Photography Workshop was the next thing Tonya was supposed to do, so it made sense to remember Tonya by making sure other students would be able to take the trip,” Ed Cesa said.