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Remembering the Brentwood tragedy

A message from Dean Richard Sigurdson


As part of the UCalgary Strong festival, a Strength Wall will be available for students, faculty, staff and the community to contribute visual and written expressions in celebration of the resiliency of the university and broader community.

April 15, 2015

Dear colleagues,

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 marks the one-year anniversary of the deaths of five extraordinary young people: Lawrence Hong, Joshua Hunter, Kaiti Perras, Zackariah Rathwell and Jordan Segura.

Our hearts go out to the parents, family and friends of the victims as they face this sad milestone in their grieving journey. The first year of grieving is especially difficult. The pain and loss are still so raw, and the void left by the loved one so enormous. What is more, the first year of grieving is a year of many painful milestones – the first birthdays, special holidays and anniversaries without the person you so love. Each of these milestones comes with a jolting reminder and a renewal of pain, most particularly felt on the anniversary of the worst day itself.

Like all of us in the Faculty of Arts and the University of Calgary, I am still incredibly heartbroken at the loss our community suffered last year on this day. All of these young people were so vibrant, talented and full of potential. The Faculty of Arts lost two exceptional students in this terrible tragedy – Lawrence Hong, an Urban Studies student, and Jordan Segura, a student in Religious Studies. Since the tragedy, I have been honoured to meet and get to know the families of Lawrence and Jordan, and I have been humbled by their dignity, bravery and compassion.

It has been a privilege, on behalf of the Faculty of Arts, to help honour the academic achievements of our two students. Last June, Lawrence’s brother Miles bravely crossed the stage at convocation to receive a posthumous B.A. degree awarded to Lawrence. This year, the University of Calgary will confer upon Jordan Segura a posthumous B.A. in recognition of the work he had done towards the near-completion of his studies. We hope that this public recognition of the success of Lawrence and Jordan as students will be some small comfort for the families.

As we in arts miss Lawrence and Jordan, so too is Joshua Hunter missed by fellow students, faculty and staff in the Haskayne School of Business. Of course, Josh was also a friend to many in arts, where he took several courses. And we remember, too, Zachariah Rathwell and Kaiti Perras, shining lights who had so much to give.

To all who knew and loved Lawrence, Jordan, Josh, Zack and Kaiti, we are so sorry for your suffering.

Please be aware that a memory page has been set up for those who wish to share memories of those lost or to reflect on the anniversary.

The loss of such talented and engaged people of university age hit us very hard within the post-secondary sector across the city. Each of the five deceased had ties to either our university, the Alberta College of Art and Design, Mount Royal University or SAIT. In some instances, there were connections to more than one of our schools. What is more, these individuals were all friends who had gathered together to celebrate the end of the academic term at a house in Brentwood so near to our campus. Many of our students were there at the house on that terrible night, several witnessing the gruesome killing of their dear friends. And the accused, Matthew de Grood, who is standing trial for the five murders, is one of our faculty’s graduates, and is known to many of our students, staff and faculty. The grief shared by many is complicated and ever painful.

With so many in our university community struggling with difficult emotions and painful memories of this horrible day, the University of Calgary has taken steps to acknowledge the anniversary in a compassionate and supportive way, as well as to celebrate the strength and resiliency of the university community.

On the morning of April 15 we will host a private gathering to commemorate the anniversary of the tragedy and to reflect on other individuals the university family has tragically lost. Representatives from MRU and ACAD have committed to attend the private gathering hosted at the University of Calgary, as has Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Again, this is a private gathering, out of respect for the families.

April 15, 2015 will also mark the beginning of a new tradition at the University of Calgary, designed to highlight the individual strengths of each member of our campus and to help build a collective campus community of engaged citizens. The inaugural UCalgaryStrong Festival celebrates the last day of classes by gathering the University of Calgary community together in the Jack Simpson Gymnasium and surrounding outdoor areas to share and engage in variety of wellness-focused activities.

This public event is designed to provide attendees an experience that fosters well-being, resilience and community. The UCalgaryStrong Festival features a community artisan market, a contemplative labyrinth and a community café where people are encouraged to browse, enjoy live stage performances and participate in activities such as yoga, Zumba and a geocaching scavenger hunt. Event festivities kick off at 11 a.m. and will end at 5 p.m.

In the aftermath of the Brentwood tragedy, the university continues to work hard to ensure that there are excellent supports and programs in place for our students, faculty and staff. This is very important work for our community. For instance, this is a period in our academic year, with exams starting, when students can feel isolated and stressed. The university provides support for students during this time. But you can help, too. Make sure to find opportunities to connect, providing all those who need it with the warmth and comfort that comes from simply getting together and talking about things.

Again, the university is continuing to ensure that students, faculty, staff and family members affected by this tragedy or suffering any other forms of stress or anxiety are offered support. Any students affected and in need of support are encouraged to visit the Students' Union Wellness Centre located on the third floor of the MacEwan Student Centre. LifeWorks is available for affected employees.

Finally, at times like these we sometimes ask how we can help remember those who have died. In this case, university and community members can make a tangible show of support by giving to the scholarships and memorial funds set up in memory of those lost.

The University of Calgary has established the following scholarships:

Lawrence Hong Scholarship in Urban Studies

The award is offered annually to a continuing undergraduate student in the Faculty of Arts, majoring in Urban Studies, with academic merit and extra-curricular activities demonstrating community/service/volunteerism.

Jordan Segura Memorial Scholarship

The award is offered annually to a continuing undergraduate student in the Faculty of Arts, majoring in Religious Studies. Preference will be given to a continuing undergraduate student entering second year, with academic merit.

Joshua Hunter Scholarship in Business

The award will be offered annually to a continuing undergraduate student in the Haskayne School of Business. Preference will be given to a student in the BComm/BMus program; second preference to a BComm student with a concentration in accounting. Academic merit and extra-curricular activities demonstrating leadership are also included as eligibility for the award.

Access the giving pages for these awards

In addition, the following memorial funds are also available for those wishing to make a donation:

Prophets of Music Foundation

The Prophets of Music Foundation was established to honour the lives of Josh and Zack and to create a legacy that promotes music as a positive force in our community and in our lives. The foundation will provide resources that enhance creativity and help facilitate the process of capturing, producing and promoting original music that might not otherwise find its way into our lives.

Kaiti Perras Love of Dance Memorial Fund 

The Kaiti Perras Love of Dance Memorial Fund was established in 2014 in loving memory of Kaiti Perras by her family. Kaiti loved all forms of dance, both as a participant and more recently as a teacher. The purpose of the fund is to introduce school-aged children to the beauty of dance in Calgary schools.

Zachariah James Rathwell Trust Fund

This fund was established to help students pursue their dreams in the arts. Donations can be made at any RBC location.

Again, on behalf of the Faculty of Arts I send our condolences to the families of Lawrence, Jordan, Josh, Zack and Kaiti. And I wish you all the best as you confront your own memories of a tragedy that has affected us all. In our efforts to come to terms with this loss, I know that we can find the strength to help ourselves and to support others, and to build resilience and find hope for the future.

Yours,

Richard

Dr. Richard Sigurdson
Dean, Faculty of Arts