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Throughout Northwest’s history, we have faced very good times and very tough times. But no matter the circumstances one thing our University community always does well is lean on each other and use our experiences to better ourselves, our University and our community.
It has been an emotional experience these past few weeks as colleagues and I walked the campus, talking to so many of our students, faculty and staff about Tomarken Smith and the kind of person he was. He was a senior pre-professional studies major with a minor in coaching. He had a winning smile and attitude. He was engaged. He loved life and loved people. He was a Bearcat.
Tomarken passed away Sept.14 as the result of an alleged assault off-campus. Much has been reported about this case, and it is important that we keep the facts in front of us while remaining careful not to perpetuate rumors. Two suspects in the case, who are Bethany residents and are not Northwest students, were arrested quickly after the incident and have been charged with second-degree murder and felony assault.
Since Sept. 14, members of the Northwest Leadership Team and other campus leaders have come together with student leaders as well as faculty and staff in a variety of sharing sessions. A truly touching scene took place at the Memorial Bell Tower the evening of Sept. 14 as more than 800 students, employees and community members gathered for a candlelight vigil that was initiated by two students on behalf of Northwest’s Greek community.
The NLT has continued discussions about short- and long-term actions pertaining to this case. We’ve met with city and county leaders, and I appreciate the many faculty members who attended a meeting where important discussions occurred about how they could better support and reach out to those students in their classes who may be hurting and need assistance.
Northwest is a part of all of us, and we must all play a role in bettering it and the surrounding communities that support us, and vice versa. Herman Boone, the well-respected coach featured in the movie “Remember the Titans,” gave a powerful lecture on campus last week. He talked about what it takes to be a leader – to be an agent of change – and he shared with students that citizenship requires participation. It’s not a spectator sport. Coach Boone also emphasized the importance of embracing those not like us. He message resonated well with all of us in the audience, and it was presented at such an ideal time for our institution.
While we can’t erase what happened Sept. 14, one of the many ways we will honor Tomarken is by coming together as a community and celebrating his life. We will we engage in tough conversations and focus on how we – the University and community – together can help accentuate our overall student success focus.
This focus on student success is evident right here on the Northwest campus and around the world. As you will read throughout this issue of the Family Newsletter, I am confident you will be impressed by the accomplishments of our students, alumni, faculty and staff and pride that comes with being a Bearcat.
Focusing on student success,
Dr. John Jasinski