Terrible Times; A Reflection on Olin’s Community

Let me start off by introducing myself, since I am a guest writer here. I'm Jeff Stanton, I'm in Olin's Class of 2010, I will be a Junior this fall, and I am pursuing a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Olin.

This past year at Olin has been a great one, especially for me. I took many interesting courses, greatly increased my knowledge of ECE topics from software to hardware, improved significantly at billiards, continued my studies in music and entrepreneurship and fell in line with an awesome group of friends including students in the classes of 2009, 2010 and 2011. I visited Little Italy in Boston for no fewer than four birthday dinners, flew home to North Carolina for three separate graduations in my family and managed to coax myself and my friends away from our studies long enough to get off-campus and have tons of fun together.


Olin students Leif, Dani, Thomas, myself and Jessica celebrate a birthday and the end of a great year by going out for dinner.

The last year has also been one in which I have come to see the strength of our small community and to understand how much people here care about each other. At the start of the 2007 fall semester, two Olin students passed away in a motorcycle wreck. Although I was not particularly close friends with either student, they were still Olin students and I was shaken up by their deaths. We all grew a bit closer that day and together we got past our grief and launched full-swing into the year.

A bit over two weeks ago, Jessica - a member of the class of 2011 and a very close friend of mine - passed away following medical complications. I and some of her other friends knew early on, but the announcement did not hit Olin until a few days later. About 50 Olin students - myself included - are living on-campus this summer pursuing various jobs or research. The rest are scattered about the country and the world. Even before the announcement came out, I was torn apart by the passing of my best friend. At some points I sobbed until no more tears would come. People stopped by to check in on me, making sure I was all right - at the time, the announcement had not gone out, and out of respect for the family I couldn't tell everybody until the announcement was sent out. I remember hearing that the email was about to be sent Sunday night - 5 days after I heard - and I headed for the lounge. As I arrived, people who were already out in the lounge watching the Red Sox game were just looking up from their laptops after reading their email. The looks on their faces and the hugs we exchanged said so many things simultaneously: shock at the loss of a community member; sympathy for my loss of a close friend; an understanding of my pain the previous days; a disbelief that a third member of our tight-knit community had died in less than a year.

A Campus United

Olin's flag flies at half-mast in memory of Jessica.

I saw something incredibly special happen at Olin in the midst of my struggle to overcome my grief and come to acceptance. Many people came to my room, my suite or my lab to talk with me, listen to me or simply provide their company. Not only did my friends check in on me, but more poignantly I heard from alumni and stduents at Olin who I hardly spent any time with. I received emails, phone calls and Facebook messages from as far away as Germany and as close as Cambridge. My closer friends and I logged countless hours on the telephone, despite the fact that my closer friends were in Boston, California, Seattle, Michigan and Germany. Numerous people offered to drive me to the airport at 7 AM on a Thursday - some of the busiest time on the Mass Pike - and pick me up the following Tuesday at 5 AM. When my friends and I arrived in California the weekend of the services, Thomas (who lives near Jessica's family) and his family picked us up from the airport, let us stay in their home, fed us, and took us around to spend time coping with our loss together. Throughout the six days I was away from Olin, I still heard from people and talked to them. Some of my classmates who were closer to Matt and Rachel helped me prepare my remarks for Jessica's memorial service, which I gave to a chapel packed beyond capacity with her friends and family. Olin students from the classes of 2009, 2010 and 2011 were at the memorial service in California, in addition to President Miller and Dean Murdoch. My heart was uplifted by everybody who was there, and I know Jessica's family was touched by our presence that day.

Olin Students at Reception

Some of the Olin students who were able to attend the memorial service in California.

What I saw at Olin was three hundred college students genuinely caring about each other and taking action to ensure that nobody slipped through the cracks - their actions speak much more than my words. My classmates reached out over thousands of miles, countless time zones, busy summer work schedules and hectic lives to talk to each other. My closest friends along with people who I hardly ever spent time with during the year wanted to make sure I was fine, that I was talking to people and dealing with my grief. We have supported each other during the worst of times, and I know that my friends and I will always have people at Olin who will be looking out for us. We hope you will keep the Olin community and Jessica's family and friends in your hearts and minds during these toughest of times.

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