Bell ringing remembers students
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 02:09
Families, friends and members of the community gathered outside Oglebay Plaza Friday to honor West Virginia University students who passed away this summer.
West Virginia University’s Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and the Office of Student Life remembered nine students who lost their lives.
Travis Day, a brother of Alpha Phi Omega and chair of the bell-ringing memorial, said the ceremony is held the Friday following a student’s death at noon.
"It’s important to have this ceremony because it shows that we are family-orientated and that we’re able to go the extra mile to show we care about our students," Day said.
Tom Sloane, senior associate dean of Student Life, said the purpose of the bell ringing ceremony is not only to remember the students, but to give the families, friends and WVU faculty an opportunity to express their sympathy and condolences.
Sloane said he finds the bell ringing ceremony as an opportunity to celebrate the impact each student had on the WVU community.
"This is an important tradition, and it’s a student-driven tradition," Sloane said. "It’s very important to remember those individuals who made a contribution to WVU and who departed, really, before their time."
Students honored Friday were Austin Baeza, a sophomore pre-communication studies student from Mooresville, N.C.; Brian Brick, a graduate student in business
administration from Romney, W.Va.; Ryan Cranford, an incoming engineering student from Morgantown; James Fladung, a general studies student from Hambleton, W.Va.; Anthony Foulk, an incoming pre-journalism student from Alaska; Alhaji Hassan, a former student in pre-sport management, from Alexandria, Va.; Murphy Hickerson, a graduate student in rehabilitation counseling from Canonsburg, Pa.; Jonathan Miller, a May graduate in business management from Jamestown, N.Y., and Christopher Schwer, a graduate student in integrated marketing communications from Sidney, Ohio.
Baeza, who was also a member and brother of WVU’s Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, died Aug. 18 near his hometown. He transferred from WVU to East Carolina University to be closer to his family.
Tim Kim, a senior civil engineering student and TKE brother, was Baeza’s "big brother" in the fraternity.
"Austin (Baeza) was always a ball of joy and could make everyone smile," Kim said. "I’m glad they acknowledged him, because even though many didn’t know Austin, it’s nice to pay your respects to a former WVU student and fraternity member."
While there is much sadness at the University’s bell ringing ceremonies, Sloane said that the ceremony aims to positively celebrate the students’ lives and their impact on the community.
"There is usually sadness during this event, but there is also a lot of positive memories that come out as well," he said.
Alpha Phi Omega began the bell ringing program more than 20 years ago, in cooperation with the U.S. Navy Department, the local veterans organization and the Division of Student Affairs.
The bell is rung three times after the Woodburn Hall clock strikes noon, and then, a moment of silence follows to remember each student.
"Alpha Phi Omega gives each family member a plaque in remembrance of their loved one.
After each student is remembered and
individuals have the opportunity to speak, there is a dinner for the family members in the Mountainlair," Sloane said.
"I think that APO deserves a lot of credit for having taken this over – and continuing and sustaining this program."
Sloane said the bell ringing ceremony is an occasion he hopes will continue in the future of the University.
For more information on bell ringing ceremonies at WVU, visit www.wvutoday.wvu.edu or email firstname.lastname@example.org.