Debbie Sit was barely out of her teens when friends and family began to notice her quiet leadership style. She was exceptionally bright, and even more gracious. All were drawn to her calming disposition.

From sorority president to vice president of her family's ­Minneapolis investment firm, Sit led by happy example.

"She was always the person people secretly aspired to be," said longtime friend Annette Meeks, who met Sit during her time in the University of Minnesota's Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. "Deb was not the loudest or the most boisterous, but when she spoke, everyone paid attention because it meant something."

Sit had many business and philanthropic accomplishments over her career, including being named in the "40 Under 40" list of the top 40 business achievers in 1995 by the Twin Cities Business Journal, for her work at Sit Investment Associates.

Sit died of cancer on June 29. She was 54.

At the U, Sit developed a network of friends she kept up with for more than 30 years after graduation. After receiving her MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Sit helped foster a book club, Christmas cookie exchange and other regular ways for the women to stay in touch. "She was the one that held us all together and made things happen," said Leslie Smith, a sorority sister.

Loved ones remember her insatiable curiosity about the world. She loved to travel and experienced new cultures with her husband, Peter Berge. Among the places they ­visited were Paris and Shanghai, and Peru would have been their next trip, he said.

But she most treasured her home in St. Paul. "She put so much of herself into it," Berge said. "I think that was the place she was the happiest."

Sit remained active even during her cancer treatments, serving on the boards of the University of Minnesota Foundation, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Vocal­Essence and Common Bond Communities.

Friends said she never missed a chance to help someone celebrate life's big moments, frequently volunteering her time, energy and home for festive occasions.

She shared a special relationship with her nieces and nephews, who would spend weekends with her. Her younger brother, Robert Sit, remembers that she was just as caring with her younger siblings. "I have fond memories of going for walks with her and she'd bring candy treats," he said.

As they all got older, several siblings joined their father's business. Debbie joined in its first year, 1981, and served as senior vice president and officer.

Her cancer was diagnosed about 11 years ago, and throughout that time she didn't complain or ever stop smiling, family and friends said. "She never felt sorry for herself," Smith said. "Things were never about her; it was about everyone else and what she can do for [them]."

In addition to her husband, Debbie is survived by her mother, Gail Sit; and brothers Ronald, Roger, Raymond, Robert and Richard. Visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at Christ Presbyterian Church, W. 70th St. and Hwy. 100, Edina. Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, also at Christ Presbyterian. • 612-673-4647 • 612-673-4648