Campus mourns sophomore’s death

The final events of inaugural week were canceled following the death of sophomore Sione Maumau. In their place was a prayer service led by University Minister Kevin Hopkins Thursday at the First United Methodist Church. Sione MaumauPhoto courtesy of Baker AthleticsDean of Students Cassy Bailey consoles sophomore Halston Pattison after news spread about the death of sophomore Sione Maumau. Students gathered together to support each other on Oct. 29 in the Long Student Center.Chad Phillips

The service began at 11 a.m., the previously scheduled time for an inauguration ceremony for President Lynne Murray. Murray said she decided to cancel inauguration events so that she and the Baker community might focus on being there for one another in order to “get through this together.”

There was not an empty seat to be found at the prayer service as students, faculty and staff, many blurry-eyed from lack of sleep and an abundance of emotion, filled both the sanctuary and balcony.

Hopkins supported Murray’s decision and spoke of the community’s strength.

“We are truly Baker Strong,” Hopkins said. “That was never more evident than last night.”

News of Maumau’s suicide shocked campus. Soon after Maumau was found in Irwin Hall Wednesday night, a crowd gathered outside the co-ed dormitory. Sobbing could be heard from Dearborn Street.

One student fell to his knees while another was already on the ground, his face buried between his arms. Some students embraced one another while others walked away, heads down, from the area. Later in the evening, students, staff and faculty were invited to convene in the Long Student Center for support.

Thursday’s service began with Hopkins greeting the church and attempting to give words of comfort with scriptures and prayers. Speech Choir Director Susan Emel also recited a few words of grace and love.

Murray’s own address to the group was brief but powerful as she spoke through tears.

“I don’t know what to say to make you feel better,” Murray said. “Except, let’s get through this together … What makes Baker great is that we’re here for you every day.”

Although Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Martha Harris emailed faculty saying that campus-wide, classes would not be canceled, many professors sent heartfelt emails canceling individual classes due to Maumau’s death. Athletic events were postponed and many other activities were canceled. The campus, which was scheduled to be bustling with activity for the presidential inauguration, was quiet.

Maumau was on the football team, a resident assistant in Irwin Hall and a member of Speech Choir at Baker. Tweets posted all over the country — from friends, family, classmates and Baker alumni — used the hashtag #BakerStrong with words of wisdom and memories of Maumau.

Many faculty and staff members are encouraging students to take advantage of the counseling services offered by Tim Hodges, director of counseling, and stressing the importance of finding help when it’s needed and being kind to all.

At the end of the service, members of the Baker University Concert Choir, many of them crying, sang “The Road Home” in honor of Maumau. Following the song, the entire church held hands in united prayer.

Hopkin’s final words of the ceremony were “We are Baker Strong, and we will get through this together.”