The ripple effect of student death

When students die, how does the university respond, and how do loved ones grieve?

This semester alone — in the span of 14 weeks — five students died suddenly.

Their names are Jenna Burleigh, Richard Dalcourt, Cariann Hithon, Michael Paytas and James Orlando.

For each student, there is a family that will never be the same; a service held that honored a young life cut short; a statement sent out by President Richard Englert or other university officials with all-too-familiar phrases like “coming together in times of tragedy.”

When students die, there is an undeniable ripple effect — it is tragic for family members, friends, professors, advisers. The grief is widespread.

“No one ever sends their child to college thinking that that’s going to be the place where they pass,” said Dean of Students Stephanie Ives.

Englert wrote in a statement to the Temple community about Hithon — who was killed by police in October, a month before Paytas and Orlando died — that this number of student deaths in one semester is “unusual.” Still, loss is expected on a campus of more than 40,000 students, administrators said.

The Temple News examined the procedures the university undertakes and the challenges it faces when students die. We spoke to former roommates, significant others, friends and family members who are still grieving, no matter how much support Temple provided.

Read a Letter from the Editors about the reporting of this story.


When students die, several university staff members work as a team. Each administrator has responsibilities to inform people and help the Temple community grieve.


After a loved one dies, the grief individuals face is immense and never-ending. Family members and friends find their own ways to cope.