The UConn community has suffered loss too often this academic year. This is a time when each of you may be enjoying college, making friends, participating in traditions, and experimenting with all the University has to offer. Instead, our joys are increasingly shadowed by the grief we feel over the untimely deaths of several of our students.
I believe it’s important to celebrate life and the great privilege our health provides while cherishing those who are lost too soon. But I also know there’s no road map to help us achieve this delicate balance.
Where do we go when the hurt is so great? How will we live on when a cherished friend is absent? What comes next?
In my family, we celebrate life, even when it is lost. The traditional Irish wake we held for my brother involved my father greeting guests at the door, sharing a glass of wine, and endless re-telling of stories of his life. We shared his successes, the frustration he caused (sometimes) and the pranks he pulled — yet we were always mindful he was no longer in the room with us to roll his eyes, sigh, or laugh along.
This is the emptiness that I know many of us are feeling right now as we mourn Nathan, Justin, Skyine, and Cole – and other people dear to each of us, too, since we recognize that this pain can revive the grief we’ve experienced from other deaths among our families and friends.
Over my years at UConn, I have learned what it means to be a Husky. As Huskies, we care for one another. We laugh, we cry, we celebrate our victories, and we are never alone. I am thankful for the spirit of compassion and care that so clearly exists among all of us.
I am also deeply indebted to the UConn faculty and staff who demonstrate care in the classroom, in the clinical setting, and while on call in the early hours of the morning. These colleagues surround the students with a web of care that is so deeply appreciated by myself and UConn
I’m equally grateful to the student leaders who share our commitment to the health and well-being of their fellow students and our UConn community. Our partnerships with USG and other advocacy groups have always led to better care, and student voices will continue to be a critical and priceless part of conversations in how best to unite in support for one another.
As the semester continues and spring approaches, I know that we will continue to care for one another. I know that we will hold close the memories of those who are no longer with us. I also know that we will grow in mind and spirit through the love and support we provide each other.
Remember, you are not alone. You are a Husky, and together we thrive.
UConn Dean of Students and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs