Kevin Figgins Jr. '16 known for conviviality

by Hannah Jinks | 1/11/19 3:10am

A supportive, altruistic friend and community member, Kevin Figgins Jr. ’16 brightened every room he entered.

“[Figgins] was an exuberantly warm person with [a] seemingly limitless depth of concern for people around him,” First Year Student Enrichment Program director Jay Davis said. “His joy [in being around] other people endeared so many others.”

On Dec. 2, Figgins, 24, died unexpectedly in his Nashville, Tennessee home. He was in the process of completing his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth and had planned to major in environmental studies and psychology. He was born on Feb. 1, 1994 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Figgins attended Oakland High School until 2011 and graduated from the Martin Luther King Junior Magnet at Pearl High School in 2012.

A natural leader in his community, Figgins was known as an accomplished, promising young man. In 2011, he was elected Tennessee American Legion Boys’ State governor, representing high school rising seniors from across the state while receiving instruction in government . Community members also admired his commitment to philanthropy. As reported in Tennessee’s Daily News Journal, he regularly did church mission work and volunteered in hospitals. At his high school, he participated in Interact, Future Business Leaders of America and National Honor Society and played the baritone in his high school band.

Raised in a Baptist household, Figgins was deeply committed to his faith. At Dartmouth, Figgins was involved in the Christian Union, Dartmouth’s Gospel Choir and X.ado, Dartmouth’s Christian a cappella group. He was also an active member in FYSEP.

Tyné Freeman ’17 Gr’20 said she first met Figgins at an ice cream social hosted by the Christian Union as a freshman.

“I immediately knew he was someone I could trust,” Freeman said. “Other people sensed in him, as well, that he’s a pure-hearted person.”

Figgins’ unique compassion, empathy and understanding of those around him was readily apparent to anyone with whom he interacted. During a hiking trip, Freeman recounted Figgins’ willingness to keep her company as their other friends sped ahead.

“He always looked out for the people around him,” she said. “He was never afraid to do the right or loving thing.”

Veri Di Suvero ’16 said Figgins cared deeply about the wellbeing of his friends.

“I’ve caught up with a lot of people at Dartmouth and that’s a very normal thing, but he was different,” Di Suvero said. “He had this wonderful, joyous smile and this ability to listen and be present and care about the person he was talking to.”

Even those who were not well acquainted with Figgins were struck by his conviviality. Noah Lee ’18 said he met Figgins at an X.ado alumni reunion event. In an email to The Dartmouth, Lee described Figgins’ “radiant warmth and perennial smile.” He added that Figgins was an amazing beat-boxer — one of his many talents.

Figgins’ passions extended beyond his faith and music. Throughout his childhood, he struggled to reconcile his sexuality as a gay man with his faith. In a 2015 article by The Dartmouth, Figgins said he developed depression and anxiety as this struggle amplified, which contributed to substance abuse. Ultimately, he decided to take several terms of medical leave to focus on improving his mental state. The confidence and self-assuredness he built during this time compelled him to help others in similar situations, according to his interview with The Dartmouth. Once he returned to campus, Figgins shared his experiences with his peers and started an organization intended to promote mental health awareness. He said he hoped to destigmatize mental health issues and leaves of absence at the College.

“He wanted to be a light, to be a resource for people with similar struggles,” Freeman said. “It was something he was very passionate about.”

Jared Boyce ’16 said Figgins’ death highlights the importance of caring for your loved ones.

“He always asked people how they were doing [and he was] always smiling,” Boyce said. “It’s a reminder for everyone to check in on their friends, even if it’s just to ask how they are doing.”

Figgins is survived by his parents, Kevin Figgins Sr. and Monica Daniels, his four sisters and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

A funeral and memorial services were held on Dec. 15 in Nashville.

Counseling resources for students, faculty and staff are available through the Office of Counseling and Human Development, the College chaplain’s office, the dean on call and the Faculty/Employee Assistance Program. Assistance can be obtained by calling Safety and Security at 603-646-4000.

Correction appended (Oct. 16, 2019): This article has been edited to remove euphemisms for death as per The Dartmouth’s style guidelines.