The sixth annual Campus Memorial Service — hosted by the Division of Student Life and the Association of Religious Counselors — honored three students who passed away during the academic year with more than 100 students filling the Vandenberg Room in the Michigan League Monday afternoon.
The service honored Engineering freshman Tyler Barthel and LSA seniors Joshua Brigham and Benjamin Moray. In her remarks during the event, Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones said the memorial was an opportunity for the entire community to come together to reflect on how the students impacted those around them and to support one another in a time of loss.
“This is a time to come together to remember and to share,” she said. “A time to grieve collectively as a community. The loss of your sons, brothers, loved ones, advisees, students and friends has impacted and forever altered our campus community.”
Prior to the service, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel met with family members and friends of the students. He did not attend the memorial itself.
Following her opening remarks, Jones read descriptions of the accomplishments of each of the students as a community member and placed a yellow rose next to their photograph in remembrance.
Friends and family members of each of the three students offered words of tribute after a musical interlude and the recital of the Litany of Remembrance.
Brigham was a member of Chi Phi fraternity who, Jones said, dreamed of graduating from the University with a degree in psychology. She said he wanted to use his degree to work with children, which was one of his greatest passions as a Special Olympics coach.
Michelle Leiterman, Brigham’s mother, spoke about her son, recalling his great love for the University. She pointed to the maize and blue tie he was photographed in that had been passed down from his great-grandfather, and said the day he was accepted to the University was the happiest day of his life.
She said the only aspect of Brigham greater than his kindness was his smile.
“The only thing bigger than Joshua’s heart was that grin he always wore,” she said. “Looking back it really is a rare photo where he wasn’t smiling.”
Jones said Barthel’s professors characterized him as an eager and talented student, noting his passion for robotics and computer science, and that he was a dedicated volunteer at his church.
Angela Farrehi, director of the Office of Student Support and Accountability, spoke about Barthel by reading an excerpt from his admission essay for the College of Engineering. Barthel wrote he felt most at peace when using his computer, as it gave him access to countless possibilities.
“My desktop is a window into the larger world,” he wrote. “There is nowhere that I feel more content than siting at my computer. When I’m sitting at my computer I can do all sorts of work. I can also have a limitless source of entertainment.”
Moray was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon — prior to its disbandment — who was studying screen arts and culture. Jones said he dreamed of one day graduating and rising to the top of the entertainment industry.
Business senior Anthony Clewlow spoke about Moray, who was his fraternity brother and roommate. He said Moray was one of the happiest people he knew and had more friends than he could count. Moray was the pledge-class president for Sigma Alpha Epsilon their freshman year. Clewlow said Moray’s confidence and fearless leadership created a strong bond within their pledge class.
“Although he only lived a short 22 years, he did more than most people do in a lifetime,” he said. “As a leader he was fearless and above all confident. He turned a random group of 20 guys into friends.”
Both Brigham and Moray will be awarded posthumous degrees during the upcoming spring commencement.
LSA junior Joel Battsek, a friend of Brigham, said he appreciated the University hosting the event to create a space for the community to come together to remember those who have left.
“I think it was really nice that they do this for you,” he said. “It was really touching to hear from everyone, and it’s very important to reflect not just in the moment but at a later date.”
Correction appended: This article has been updated to clarify that Brigham and Moray are the two receiving posthumous degrees, as well as Battsek’s connection to the event.