Emotions ran high on Monday night, as dozens of people – including ETSU President Brian Noland, SGA President Megha Gupta, Senate Staff President Stefanie Murphy and Faculty Staff President Bill Flora – gathered in the Reece Museum to remember the lives of nearly 40 campus community members who have passed away in the last year.
Each year the campus community gathers for ETSU Remembers, a candle lighting ceremony to honor those from the campus who have passed away in the last year. Those remembered on Monday night included students, faculty, staff and retirees. The ceremony also comes less than a week after 17-year-old Zoe Shipley, who had just started her first semester at ETSU, died from injuries suffered in a car accident. Shipley was studying to be a forensic pathologist.
ETSU Remembers is usually held in the D.P. Culp Center auditorium, but due to ongoing renovation, the Culp was unavailable – something President Noland felt played a role in a more emotional and powerful night.
“I think the more intimate setting made it a little bit more powerful,” Dr. Noland said.
Candles were lit in remembrance of 37 campus community members who had died, with several family members and friends lighting candles in honor of their loved ones. One of those family members, Jonathan Radford, the son of Dr. Angela Radford Lewis said it was “hard to put in words” what the ceremony meant to him. His mother was ETSU’s vice provost and special assistant to the president for strategic initiatives, and died suddenly in January.
“One of the things about death is not only the absence of a person, but the absence of their significance,” Radford said. “So the fact that the ETSU community would take a moment to reflect on the people who gave to their community – that has to be acknowledged.”
Before the lighting ceremony, both the ETSU Belles and ETSU Chorale performed “Pentatonic Alleluia” by Ross Whitney and “Kyrie From Mass for Four Voices” by William Byrd, respectively. A prayer was also said by Cole Rogers, associate of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry, prior to the beginning of the candle lighting.
“Tonight is just a night to remember friends,” said Noland with tears in his eyes. There’s a gentleman in the back who flew here from Jacksonville. That’s what makes this special.”
That man was Radford.
The event also honored ETSU professor Chris Dula, who in January lost his lengthy battle with brain cancer.
The ceremony also honored the life of second-year internal medicine resident Dr. Manisha Nukavarapu, who was killed in a plane crash last month when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed while leaving Addis Ababa International Airport in Ethiopia en route to Kenya. The crash left 157 people dead and led to the world-wide grounding of all Boeing 737 MAX planes.
The night came to a close when the ETSU Belles gave a moving rendition of “Even When He Is Silent” by Kin Andrè Arnessen, which left many in the audience – including Noland and Radford – overcome with emotion.