In honor of five students who passed away this past academic year, the University hosted a memorial service of quiet reflection and words of remembrance.
The event, held Tuesday in the Pendleton Room of the Michigan Union, allowed for a small gathering of the friends and families of the students to share memories and mourn the loss of their loved ones as a community. The formal service, which included speeches from various University officials and some of the students’ family members, was followed by a reception in the Parker Room of the Union.
This was the third annual Campus Memorial Service, hosted by the University’s Division of Student Affairs and the Association of Religious Counselors, which is an independent collection of religious professionals who work closely with the administration and campus community.
ARC Chair Tilly Shames, executive director of the University of Michigan Hillel, gave opening remarks.
“There is no harder and no sadder experience than to see the life and growth of one of our students end,” Shames said. “My hope for all those present is that we can have a moment today to dwell on the memory of your student and their time on campus.”
LSA senior Lee Atkins passed away on Oct. 19 in Ann Arbor at the age of 24. Atkins, a native of Oak Park, Ill., was studying history at the University after serving in Afghanistan during 2008 and 2009. His family reflected on his great love of Michigan athletics, particularly football.
Engineering freshman Ian Clemens died on Oct. 25 in his hometown of Livonia, Mich. at the age of 17. Clemens’s family said he had plans to join the crew team and ultimate Frisbee team at the University.
LSA senior Alex Joboulian was studying political science at the University. He was an active member of the Armenian Student Cultural Association and Independent Students for Liberty. Joboulian, who was in his last semester here, was awarded a posthumous degree from the University.
LSA sophomore Colleen Mitchel passed away on March 4, eight days before her 20th birthday. She was majoring in psychology at the University, played club field hockey and was involved in Best Buddies, a campus organization that pairs students with Washtenaw County residents who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Mitchel aspired to become an occupational therapist, a field that often aids individuals with disabilities.
Engineering sophomore Maxime Pouokam died on Oct. 2 at the age of 20. He was a resident of Rochester Hills, Mich., but his family is originally from Cameroon. Pouokam was known for his participation in the African Student Association and his love of computer science and music.
Though most families hold private ceremonies shortly after the respective passings, Rev. Reid Hamilton, former president of the ARC, said the service is valuable in allowing the families to remember their loved ones as part of a larger community.
“This is a gathering that is particularly oriented towards the University as a community — towards remembering the students who have been a part of our lives and devoted so much of their own lives and energies to the work of service and learning on this campus,” Hamilton said.
The ceremony included three readings: one from the Koran, one from the Bible and a secular poem. Despite the participation of the ARC, Hamilton said the event “was not intended to be a specifically religious ceremony.”
“We try to incorporate the religious traditions of the students themselves — if any — and be intentional about recognizing the diversity of the campus community,” Hamilton said.
Assistant Dean of Students Sarah Daniels, the event’s organizer, said the University holds the memorial to complement the private services held by families, honoring the students within the context of the University.
“I think that the goal is to recognize that we are a university community,” Daniels said. “This was to honor them as members of the University community and to recognize that the community comes together — acknowledging that there are others going through the grief process.”
Daniels said families are notified of the event at the beginning of the winter term, but are not in any way obligated to attend. Families also have the choice of asking that their loved one be excluded from the ceremony, but Daniel said no family has ever made this request.