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Semester in Review: University student suicides

The University community tragically lost three of its own to suicide this semester — second-year Engineering student  Connor Cormier , second-year College student Peter D’Agostino, and fourth-year College student Hunter Smith. Students organized events to honor their memories and to allow the community to grieve together. 

Police responded to Cormier’s suicide at 215 Hereford Drive on Oct. 15. A 19-year-old computer science major, Cormier graduated from Colonial Forge High School and participated in the International Collegiate Programming Contest, as well as hackathons.

In Cormier’s honor, several students held a hackathon, “Coding in Honor of Connor,” Nov. 15-16. Second Year Council and Capital One sponsored the 24-hour event, in which students collaborated to develop a computer application to solve a posed problem. Participants were judged by corporate sponsors who awarded the winning teams with prizes, and all proceeds were donated to Computers4Kids, an organization that provides home-computer access to low income youths in order to improve their technology and learning skills.

Police responded to D’Agostino’s suicide Nov. 21 at 1309 Wertland Street. D’Agostino, a member of the improv comedy group The Whethermen and the Virginia Alpine Ski and Snowboard Team, was deceased when police arrived on the scene.

In D’Agostino’s honor, Second Year Council requested students submit jokes, amusing quotes or uplifting phrases in the week following his death. These words were then reproduced and distributed to first-year students.

Friends and family members held a celebration for D'Agostino's life in December. The event included a reading of one of his short stories, performed by several members of The Whethermen, and a performance by the Academic Village People — an a cappella group which frequently performs with The Whethermen.

Most recently, University Police arrived at Bice apartments Dec. 17 in response to Smith’s suicide. Smith graduated from Blacksburg High School and was an active member of the gymnastics club team and Virginia Acrobatics Club along with his job as a lifeguard.

“He also was one of the most attentive listeners I've ever met,” fourth-year College student Kamala Ganesh said. “He would hang on every word you said, no matter how mundane it was, and make you feel like you were the center of the universe.”

University students are working on providing resources and outreach events to support an ongoing suicide prevention initiative.

The University’s chapter of To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting individuals who suffer from depression and preventing self-harm, hosted a series of events during Suicide Prevention Week in an attempt to dissolve the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and get students talking about suicide risk and prevention.

Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Patricia Lampkin urged students to reach out to Counseling and Psychological Services for support.

“Mid-fall is a challenging time in terms of academic stress, and this has been an unusually difficult semester for the entire University community,” Lampkin said in an email earlier this semester. “In addition to calling on CAPS, please reach out to one another in kindness, support, and the sense of community that help us face difficult times together.”


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