Georgia Remembers

UGA Student Care and Outreach coordinated the annual Georgia Remembers event, dedicated to honoring the students and faculty members who died over the last year. (Photo/Sam Perez)

As each name was read, a member of the Arch Society lit a candle.

The students passed the flame down the line, one by one, until all the candles were glowing. Family and friends stood holding candles of their own as the flame traveled throughout the crowd. Soon enough, everyone in attendance held a candle to represent the lives of the students and faculty who died.

Friends and family gathered together to honor loved ones who died in the past year at the Georgia Remembers candlelight memorial on May 1. The service was held outside of the University of Georgia Chapel. As the sun lowered in the sky, those who congregated reflected on the lives of UGA students, faculty and staff members who lost their lives since last April 2018. 

Beau Seagraves, associate dean of students and director of Student Care and Outreach, said the annual service “reflects the spirit of community at UGA as we remember those who have passed and remember the contributions they have made to the community and allow their friends, family, and colleagues to gather.”

Student Care and Outreach is responsible for coordinating the event each year. The organization’s mission is to work with students who are struggling with difficult circumstances by providing individualized support. This memorial service is one example of the work it does on campus to assist students dealing with hardships.

“At the end of each academic year, the University of Georgia, through this ceremony, comes together to remember, to mourn and to reflect upon the lives of lost friends, classmates, colleagues, professors, staff members, family members and fellow Bulldogs,” UGA President Jere Morehead said to begin the ceremony.

Morehead emphasized the close-knit community found on UGA’s campus as he welcomed everyone in attendance. Despite a large number of individuals that make up the university, he said that relationships with one another are what make up the school’s foundation.

“In the midst of our collective mourning this evening, we allow this community to unite, to find hope, and to be reminded that we can honor the departed by the way we live our lives each and every day from this point forward,” Morehead said.

The names of those who have died were read in remembrance after Diane Bales, the campus staff minister for Disciples on Campus, delivered the opening prayer. As each name was announced, the chapel bell rang once to honor their lives and to recognize the impact they had here in Athens.

Rachel Byers, president of the Student Government Association, read the names of the deceased. She said that taking this time to remember the students is a crucial part of being intentional in making sure the families feel supported. Byers said that the “Bulldog Nation” is mentioned often in reference to the UGA community and events like this service serve as “just one example of what it means to be a part of this family.”

Kyle Paladino, a junior law student from Midland Park, New Jersey, stood alongside UGA alumnus Erich Tori. They came to the chapel to honor Stephen Norris, a member of their fraternity who died in September 2018.

Although they had never been to the service in previous years, they showed up in support of Norris. They reflected on the memories they held during their time together at UGA and recognized the importance of this event.

“It’s really special knowing how much Stephen loved this school,” Paladino said. “I think about how me and him (sic) would walk to class and walk pass here and it ties it all together sort of. I really love that.”

Tori, who now works as an application analyst assistant for the Office of the Registrar, said UGA will be giving Norris an honorary degree for graduation this May. He said it’s small acts like this that remind Norris’s family and those who knew him about “how special of a person he was.”

Ammishaddai Grand-Jean, vice president of the Adventist Christian Fellowship and former SGA president, gave the closing prayer.

“We pray that we will not forget their impact on our lives, the warm and fond memories that made us laugh and smile and their mission and purpose on this earth,” he said.