Community holds vigil

Students, friends honor deceased first-year student Jake Cusano


More than 200 students gathered Saturday evening for a candlelight vigil at the Amphitheater in honor of Jake Cusano, a first-year student who committed suicide February 15.

Cusano was a member of the men’s club rowing team at the University, an organization that came out in great numbers to the event. One of his coaches, as well as three of his friends, spoke about him at vigil. First-year Engineering student Justin Deaver, a fellow rower and a speaker at the event said Cusano’s lighthearted personality was something that would be greatly missed by the entire team.

“We’d get off the water after two hours early in the morning [and you] could barely feel your legs,” Deaver said. “Jake jumped out of the boat and starting running up and down the dock … Even in the hardest situations, he would find some way to lighten the mood.”

Rowing coach Eric Schuler described Jake’s funeral near his hometown of Morristown, N.J., which took place Friday. Members from the men’s rowing team and Cusano’s dorm hall made the trip, he said. Schuler brought a message from the family thanking the University community for honoring Cusano’s memory. University President Teresa Sullivan and Dean of Students Allen Groves met Cusano’s family when they came to the University the day after Cusano’s death on Friday.

Class of 2016 President Andrew Kwon said Cusano was a personal friend, but the vigil was an effort to help the community.

“Our community is so tight in general [so the vigil was] for the community to heal together and lean on each other,” Kwon said. “He was also a member of the class of 2016, so it is hitting our class the hardest, I believe.”

As students began lighting their candles, the Virginia Gentlemen, a men’s a cappella group, sang “On the Turning Away.” One of the group’s members was a friend of Cusano’s, and had asked the group to participate in the vigil, said fourth-year college student River Bennett, one of the Virginia Gentlemen.

“We were touched to have been asked to do this,” Bennett said. “We had sang the song once before in my first year and it was for Yeardley Love’s death … We just kind of like the message, [which focuses on] the importance of not being passive and just paying attention to everything and everyone around you.”

Two representatives from the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services spoke at the event, adding that CAPS is open to anyone who needs help coping with Cusano’s loss.

“We all grieve differently and we all need to give ourselves time for that,” CAPS Crisis Management Coordinator Lenny Carter said. “We’re all still in shock … We’re all still waiting for Jake to come around the corner and for Jake to come home.”

Cusano is survived by his parents and two brothers. He was 18 years old when he died.

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