Student government members lead ceremony, pay their respects
Solemn condolences were shared among families, friends and members of the UTD community who gathered to commemorate the loss of nine students during the 2014-2015 academic year at a memorial service called “Comets Remember,” on April 2 in the Galaxy Rooms.
Psychology and child learning and development senior Nicholas Raviani; software engineering freshman Ankitha Vemu; neuroscience freshman Vishnu Yadlappali; psychology junior Shifa Mirza; psychology freshman Benjamin Shorr; finance senior David Pimentel; computer science senior Matthew Weddle; molecular biology junior Phillip Munoz-Perez and graduate student in the Jindal School of Management Anna Moses were all remembered at the event.
Assistant vice president of student affairs Yolande Evans welcomed the guests. Associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students Gene Fitch, student government president Brooke Knudtson, SG vice president Nancy Fairbank and SG senator Charlie Hannigan conducted the ceremony, which was initiated with bagpipe music provided by Matt Willis.
Hannigan led the attendees in a moment of reflection for the students who’ve passed and their families and friends. Fitch then addressed the families in expressing the deepest sympathies on behalf of the entire university for their loss.
“We challenge our students to remember facts and formulas and to apply them in a way that creates the possibility for progress,” Fitch said. “Your students were involved in the vital pursuit of a better world. Today we remember them, their passion, their excellence, their struggles and their achievements.”
Knudtson also took a moment to comfort the loved ones of those who were lost by representing the student body and extending condolences on their account.
“Although our campus is very large, UT Dallas has a special way of making every student feel like an integral part of this university,” Knudtson said. “Every student is important. UT Dallas is a community and a family. We are all Comets. When one person or family experiences a loss, we all do.”
Fairbank recited “We Remember Them” from the Hebrew Union Prayer Book to celebrate the memory of the deceased and offered support to the families in the audience. As Fitch declared each student an “Eternal Comet”, a gong was sounded and a bouquet of flowers was presented to their respective families.
Lawrence J. Redlinger, executive director for strategic planning and analysis and Moses’ supervisor, said he was saddened by the loss.
“Anna was a great employee and a great person with a positive attitude,” Redlinger said. “Bad things happen to good people. It’s another star taken from the sky.”
Yvonne and Max Raviani, parents of Nicholas Raviani, sat in the audience as they accepted the bouquet that honored the memory of their son. He was a semester away from graduation and working full-time when he lost his life in a shooting, Max said.
“Nick cared about lifting people up,” Yvonne Raviani said. “He was a mediator. He was a sweet person. Nobody should have to experience this kind of loss. We’re here today because this is all we have.”
Hannigan brought the ceremony to a close by quoting author Norman Maclean.
“We pray that all those who’ve experienced a loss this year may see beyond their sorrow and find peace, “ Hannigan said. “May we find the strength to endure tough times and find comfort through the university community.”