College community organizes events to grieve following student deaths

In addition to a community gathering organized by the College, Dartmouth Hillel and the family of Sam Gawel ’23 held memorial services.

by Charlotte Hampton | 9/30/22 5:10am

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The College held a community gathering on Baker-Berry lawn on Friday afternoon for students to “grieve in recognition of recent losses and community pain,” according to an email from interim Dean of the College Scott Brown. This event was one of several organized by various members of the Dartmouth community following the deaths of Sam Gawel ’23, Joshua Watson ’22, Alex Simpson ’22 and David Gallagher ’20. 

Hundreds of students attended the event, according to an announcement from the College. 

Hanlon, Brown, College chaplain Nancy Vogele ’85, Dartmouth Student Government president David Millman ’23 and vice president Jessica Chiriboga ’24 spoke at the event. 

“Like almost everyone, myself and my colleagues in senior leadership were distraught and grief stricken by the news of the deaths of our students,” Brown wrote in a statement to The Dartmouth. “We knew that we needed to come together as a community as soon as possible and just be together and grieve together.”

Also on Friday, Gawel’s family held a memorial at the Dartmouth Outing Club House at Occom Pond. Carter Welch ’23, who said he described Gawel as one of his best friends, attended the memorial.

“The way in which [the memorial] was done was just very honest and open and transparent,” Welch said. “It was important that the community knew that it wasn’t anyone’s fault. You can’t hide behind shadows, you can’t hide behind trite slogans … I deeply cherish his family for opening Sam’s world and Sam’s mind to everyone else.” 

The memorial service was officiated by the Gawel family’s Rabbi Ilene Harkavy Haigh, the spiritual leader of Congregation Shir Shalom in Woodstock, Vermont. 

Dartmouth Hillel Rabbi Seth Linfield said the service was held in person, but attendees also participated via Zoom. He added that about 250 people attended in person and more than 300 were present online.  

In addition to Haigh, Gawel’s mother Leah Gawel, his sister Sophia Gawel ’22 and his father Randy Gawel also spoke, according to Linfield.  

Niklas Stahle ’23, who is a member of Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity with Gawel, described Leah Gawel’s speech as courageous. 

“She was mothering everyone from the podium. Her voice didn’t crack once,” Stahle said.

On Thursday, Sept. 22, along with Chabad at Dartmouth, Dartmouth Hillel hosted approximately 75 people at the Roth Center to reflect and meditate, according to Linfield.

The brothers of Chi Gam also gathered together on the nights of Sept. 22 and 23 to grieve, exchange stories and pictures and sing Gawel’s favorite songs, according to Chi Gam brother Marc Novicoff ’23. The brothers sat around bonfires, which drew students from around the College who knew Gawel, Novicoff said. Houses along Webster Avenue heard the singing, and Novicoff described the house as “overflowing” with students drawn to Chi Gam’s lawn. 

Welch said that he was “blessed” to know Gawel.

“Sam really was the best of all of us,” Welch said. “That soul gave more love and took in more pain than I think is humanly imaginable for any soul. I think that’s what gives me some relief from the grief, is knowing that I was blessed to know him.”  

On Tuesday, the Dartmouth Senior Leadership group — which includes campus leaders such as Hanlon, Kotz and Brown — announced a “Day of Caring” on Friday, Oct. 21 in an email to the Dartmouth community. According to the email, the day will feature programming and activities “designed to create space to process the grief of our community losses, time for reflection, and an opportunity to prioritize our mental health and well-being.”

The College also extended the deadline for declaring a non-recording option — in which students can set a benchmark to exclude a grade from their transcript — two weeks later to Oct. 10, according to an email sent by Provost David Kotz and Dean of the Faculty Elizabeth Smith on Friday, Oct. 23.

Some students are split on the College’s response to the student deaths. 

Lance Sunga ’26 said that the Day of Caring is “one of the smartest things the College has done.”

“It’s a way of giving students a chance to relax from the 10 week term,” Sunga said. “I think the NRO extension is also a great push.” 

Henry Moore ’26 expressed more trepidation. 

“I think a day of no classes isn’t doing too much in the long term because professors still need to get through the syllabus,” he said. “The only way to genuinely alleviate academic stress is to lessen the workload, which isn’t being done by the NRO extension or a day of no classes.”

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