After the murder of junior film and media arts student Jenna Burleigh in August, we were both saddened for her family and touched by the supportive Temple community present at a vigil held in the Founder’s Garden in September.
We were also curious: What exactly is the university’s responsibility when students die?
After months of speaking to university administrators and faculty members, we found there isn’t one clear answer to our question. Each student’s death prompts a unique and individual response, some of which are detailed in this project.
But when students die, one thing is guaranteed: immense grief felt by those who have suddenly lost a student they knew and loved.
To ask that we remain entirely objective while hearing the stories of people who lost a loved one would be an unrealistic expectation. Learning about Daniel Levitt, Agatha Hall, Erin Wilson and Christian Ciammetti through interviews with their family members, friends and professors deeply impacted us.
Their grief was raw and striking, but we also felt their immense love for students whose lives were cut short. We thank the people who opened up to us about what must be one of the most painful things you have experienced: the unexpected death of someone you cherish.
Daniel loved to ice skate and attend opera events. Agatha, who had one immediate family member living in the United States, cooked her favorite foods for friends on holidays. Erin started a blanket drive for patients in the psychiatric unit at Temple Hospital’s Episcopal campus. Christian, who was passionate about landscape architecture, built a fire pit that sits in the backyard of his family’s property in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
These details are an example of how grieving family members and friends remember their loved ones — something we did our best to capture.
Readers, we hope you find these stories meaningful. We hope you learn more about the university’s response to student death, and the resources you can expect if you face challenges here at Temple. We hope this project helps you remember past students, all of whom impacted the Temple community before they died and left behind loved ones who are still grieving.
Michaela Winberg & Grace Shallow