Hundreds reflect on ‘devastating’ death of Harsha Maddula


Mariam Gomaa/The Daily Northwestern

Burgwell Howard, assistant vice president for student engagement, and University President Morton Schapiro (left to right in the foreground) watch on as student commemorate Harsha Maddula, the missing student whose body was found in Lake Michigan on Thursday evening.

Paulina Firozi, Campus Editor

Hundreds of Northwestern students gathered tonight on Deering Meadow to remember the life of Harsha Maddula.

University President Morton Schapiro expressed that he, as with many people in attendance, was looking for inspiration, encouragement and comfort during this difficult start to the new year.

“Every year when the academic year begins, I hope, indeed I pray, for the safety and health and well being of our students,” Schapiro said. “And to have something go so tragically, so horrifically wrong… is so devastating.”

Maddula’s body was found Thursday evening in Wilmette Harbor on Lake Michigan. The McCormick sophomore had not been seen since leaving an off-campus party early Saturday morning.

Associated Student Government vice president Brad Stewart, who helped organize the event, reminded the NU community of why it was important to come together in difficult circumstances.

“Tonight is an opportunity for introspection,” he said. “To search for truth and meaning in a world that often seems cruel when we are faced with adversity. Tonight is an opportunity to remember, to reflect and to find comfort in our Northwestern family. We can never be as strong individually as we can collectively.”

Schapiro said although he did not have the opportunity to know Maddula as a student, he knew from speaking to family that he “couldn’t think of a more perfect exemplar of what Northwestern community is all about.”

“It’s just extraordinary,” he said.  “We should all be so blessed to be surrounded by so many people who love us and support us and never give up on us. It’s truly inspiring.”

Students embraced each other during the ceremony, quietly memorializing a peer whose death rocked the first days of classes.

McCormick freshman Luke McDermitt said he came to the service because he realized how easily he could have been in Maddula’s position. He said he had walked home alone from a party the same weekend.

“I was struck by how much he looked like me, he could have been me, so I wanted to pay my respects,” he said. “(The gathering) was very nice, very solemn, it struck the right note.”

— Paulina Firozi