Schaumburg ISU student died of seizure disorder

  • Allison Zak, 19, of Schaumburg, found dead in her dorm room at Illinois State University on Thursday of an undiagnosed seizure disorder, was active in the ISU marching band.

    Allison Zak, 19, of Schaumburg, found dead in her dorm room at Illinois State University on Thursday of an undiagnosed seizure disorder, was active in the ISU marching band. Photo courtesy of the Zak family

  • Allison Zak

    Allison Zak

Updated 3/23/2012 7:40 PM

Two students -- a 19-year-old Schaumburg woman and 19-year-old Wilmette man -- were found dead in unrelated cases in their respective dorm rooms at Illinois State University late Thursday.

Allison C. Zak, a sophomore from Schaumburg, died from an undiagnosed seizure disorder, McLean County Coroner Beth Kimmerling said. Zak had been found unresponsive by her roommate in Manchester Hall at 9:30 p.m. Thursday.


John Stephens of Wilmette was found by his roommate at 11:49 p.m. Thursday in his 16th floor dorm room in Hewett Hall. He died of a nonnatural process and toxicology tests have been ordered, Kimmerling said. There was no sign of foul play or third-party involvement.

Zak's seizure disorder was found to be related to her Crouzon Syndrome -- a condition that manifests itself with multiple brain and skull abnormalities.

Her father, Michael Zak, said her prior health issues gave no indication of the seizure disorder.

"This was a total shock to us," he said.

Though Allison Zak had reportedly fallen and hit her head earlier this week, that was not a factor in her death, Kimmerling said.

Allison Zak was a 2010 graduate of Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, where she was a member of the school orchestra and marching band.

She had carried on her passion for marching band at ISU, Michael Zak said.

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"She was a bubbly kid who was majoring in German and Japanese," he said.

Allison Zak took German classes at Conant High School but taught herself Japanese largely through comic books, her father said. She tested at the second-year level before she even began taking Japanese classes at ISU, he said.

She had planned to use one or both languages professionally, probably in some kind of government capacity, Michael Zak said.

She'd visited Germany during high school and she had hoped to study abroad in Japan before she graduated from ISU.

Michael Zak said last year's tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis in Japan made his own parents nervous about Allison's planned trip, but didn't shake her own resolve at all.

Conant's Director of Bands Kreg Moorhouse said both music and academics were very important to the young woman he'd come to know.

"It was shocking to hear this this morning," Moorhouse said. "She was a member of our family. She was a very bright, intelligent girl who musically stood out. She was one of our better clarinet players."


But as important as it was to her, she had a dedication to all her other classes as well, he said.

"When we were going to take a field trip, she struggled over missing class," Moorhouse said.

Zak has two younger sisters still at Conant. Student assistance teams were available for counseling Friday and will continue to be available next week during spring break, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 spokesman Tom Petersen said.

The death of the two students was reported early Friday by university President Al Bowman in a letter on the university website. Bowman said that university counselors are available to anyone on campus that may need assistance.

Daily Herald staff writer Lee Filas contributed to this report.

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