To her friends and family, Stephanie Sharp Waterman was a young woman with an infectious grin and endearing personality that even strangers found irresistible.

As an athlete and captain of Georgetown University's women's tennis team, she was an inspiring leader, fellow students said. Off the court, her interests were as vast as the distance between Washington and Dakar, Senegal, where she was killed last week.

Waterman, 20, was stabbed to death after she returned to her home in the West African capital after playing tennis last Saturday morning with friends from the U.S. Embassy, State Department officials said.

The young woman's death left many at the university stunned and saddened. A Thursday night memorial service for her at Dahlgren Chapel was attended by university president Father Timothy Healy and more than 250 other friends and classmates of Waterman.

And on Friday a dozen students and her former coach, Kathy Kemper, flew to Kansas City, Mo., Waterman's home town, where funeral services were held yesterday.

"She was incredibly generous and liked to share her life," Kemper said before leaving for the flight. "I would describe her as a modern woman: very self-assured, a high achiever, yet very feminine."

A third-year student at Georgetown's Foreign Service School, Waterman went to Senegal last fall to study African culture and French. Officials said that her assailant was a Senegalese man who tried to rob her when she entered the house, then stabbed her in the neck. She fled from the house, screaming, but died shortly after, they said.

The man, whose identity has not been disclosed, was arrested, said Ken Scott, a State Department spokesman.

"We have good relations with Senegal, and they've been forthcoming with their information," Scott said.

Reports circulated on the Georgetown University campus last week that the suspect had confessed to the slaying. However, State Department officials said they could not confirm this.

Waterman's father Jerome described the murder as a "kind of senseless, freak thing."

"I hope this doesn't deter other students from going overseas," he added. "It could have happened anywhere."

Carol Lancaster, director of the Foreign Service School, said of Waterman: "Like most students, she was finding her way. I think she was interested in Africa because she was interested in helping others. She was the kind of student that I think we enjoy teaching."

And Waterman was the kind of friend one could confide in, said Meaghan McLaughlin, a sophomore who also was a member of the tennis team and shared Waterman's passion for the French language.

"I remember talking in French and typing her French papers for her," McLaughlin said. "When I was a freshman, she was so helpful in getting me adjusted. I think one of her best attributes is that she was easy to talk to."

A scholarship program is being arranged at the Foreign Service School in his daughter's name, Jerome Waterman said. He said that his wife Jennifer had returned recently from a two-week visit with their daughter.

"My wife told me that she and Stephanie visited a fishing village near the end of the trip," he said. "A woman who they met was so taken by her that she literally handed Stephanie her child, asking her to keep it.

"Stephanie was naturally taken aback. But that's the kind of person she was. She was just super-infectious."