Second memorial for Alyssa Weaver highlights her lasting legacy

Hope Coorden (left) and Natalie Furlett (center), who work in the Center for Student Involvement, hold hands Wednesday at Alyssa Weaver’s memorial service at Alice Millar Chapel. Weaver took her own life in November while studying abroad in London.

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Hope Coorden (left) and Natalie Furlett (center), who work in the Center for Student Involvement, hold hands Wednesday at Alyssa Weaver’s memorial service at Alice Millar Chapel. Weaver took her own life in November while studying abroad in London.

Cat Zakrzewski, Reporter

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Holding hands, the Northwestern community gathered Wednesday night to remember Weinberg junior Alyssa Weaver for a second time.

The service held at Alice Millar Chapel was more formal than the candlelight vigil at The Rock in November and was attended by members of the Weaver family, including Alyssa’s sister and brother-in-law. Because more than two months have now passed since Weaver took her own life while studying abroad in London, this service focused on how Weaver’s legacy could be continued now that the initial shock of her death has passed.

Chi Omega sorority, the Cultural and Community Studies Residential College, the Boxing Club and the Brady Scholars Program co-sponsored both memorials. Brady Scholars director Laurie Zoloth invited all in attendance to remember Weaver by participating in one of her favorite activities — hand-holding.

“Take the hand of the person next to you,” Zoloth said addressing Weaver’s family and friends. “They are here now. They are present, and each is a treasure.”

As those in attendance held hands, Zoloth spoke of the special impact Weaver had on the NU community as both a scholar and a friend, and encouraged students to be a source of support for one and other. She also reminded the audience to learn from Weaver’s life.

“I’ll continue to work to make Northwestern a better place, a more attentive place, a place where we might change the culture that makes this one illness among others somehow shameful,” Zoloth said, calling on the school community to do the same.

Weinberg Dean Sarah Mangelsdorf joined Zoloth and Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, in sharing stories from various professors about Weaver in her classes as both a Brady Scholar and award-winning philosophy student. They also described Weaver’s varying academic interests, ranging from art history to chemistry.

“Her scholarship illuminated our scholarship,” Zoloth said.

Several of the speakers at the memorial described their shock that such a talented, involved and popular student was suffering from depression.

“I never worried about Alyssa,” Mangelsdorf said. “I could not see her pain.”

Following the words of remembrance from the administration and faculty, several representatives from the student body shared their own messages of support or memories of Weaver.

Associated Student Government President Victor Shao did not personally know Weaver but spoke to remind all students to reach out to “fellow Wildcats.” ASG acted on this immediately following Weaver’s death by passing a resolution to address mental health issues on campus and to support the creation of an orientation education program about mental health options. The University has since followed up on the campaign, announcing last week plans for a mental health Essential NU program during Wildcat Welcome.

“For Alyssa, may we continue to live our lives to the fullest with others before ourselves,” Shao said.

Friends of Weaver shared more personal stories. SESP junior Erica Rodriguez, a close friend of Weaver’s from CCS and the Boxing Team, shared many humorous anecdotes about Weaver at the November vigil at The Rock, such as their trek to boxing practice during the blizzard, called “Snowpocalypse” by students, that hit campus their freshman year. But at Wednesday’s memorial, Rodriguez instead shared the words and stories of other students who had known her. Rodriguez compiled a book of these memories for the Weaver family. Chi O president Hailey Arterburn, also spoke of Weaver’s contributions to the chapter and her infectious personality and laughter.

McCormick sophomore Sean Patrick Bowen-Williams spoke about how his friendship with Weaver was life-changing. Although he said he wished he could tell Weaver how much she meant to him, he said everyone could honor her memory by reaching out to the other people she had touched.

“I’m not the only one whose life has been changed by Alyssa,” Bowen-Williams said. “I only wish she could know how many people she impacted and improved their lives, how many people cared about her.”

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