“Few tragedies are quite as saddening for a university community as the death of one student. The loss of four only compounds our terrible sense of grief,” President Joel Seligman wrote to the University community on Aug. 9 after hearing news of the recent deaths of two UR alumni, Krystle Dixon ’05 and Steven J. Harrison, Jr. ’00, one UR student, Ali Shah Afzal ’07 and one Eastman alumnus, Aaron Brock ’03.

“Four students dying in four unrelated incidents in such a short period of time, it is hard to explain the feeling of aching sadness that we are left with,” Seligman said.

Dixon graduated from UR with a Bachelor’s degree in English, as a member of the SA Senate and Sigma Delta Tau Sorority; she was studying biology at Montclair State University with plans to attend medical school. She was killed when the car she was driving veered off of Route 22 in Hillside, N.J. and struck a pole on Aug. 6, police told The Star Ledger.

“I was stunned when I found out,” senior Seth Bohler said. “I left work early and couldn’t really talk to anyone for the rest of the day. She was a big sister to me; she was an awesome girl who always had a smile on her face, and seeing that always brought a smile to mine.” A scholarship fund has been established in her honor, and a memorial service is being planned in coordination with her sorority, friends and family.

Harrison’s memorial service will be held Friday, Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. in the Interfaith Chapel. He graduated from UR with a degree in English and African American Studies, and went on to graduate a year later from the Margaret Warner Graduate School as a Fifth Year in Teaching Scholar.

He was still highly involved in UR, in planning Meliora Weekend, and was taking leadership classes at the Warner School, pursuing a second master’s degree and certification as a school administrator when he was killed in a car accident. The car he was driving swerved to avoid hitting a fallen tree on the New York State Thruway in the New Paltz area. The car lost control and traveled across the road, into the median and hit a tree, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.

“I knew Steven from the time he was a freshman; I knew him through good times and bad,” Vice President Paul Burgett said. “I was able to watch Steven’s leadership skills develop, I was able to observe his commitment expressed as a leader and I felt that as a result I really knew him. So hopping on a plane and going to New York to pay my respects had both a personal and professional dimension.” Burgett attended Harrison’s wake, the day before the funeral, at Gethsemane Baptist Church in the Bronx. He said, in addition to the many UR students and alumni in attendance, there were the students he taught at East High School in Rochester.

“He was the an amazing teacher,” freshman Lashona Brenson. “I had him first period, and he was the reason why people came to school. We could relate to him, and talk to him about anything. He was so involved in our lives beyond academics.” Brenson admits that she would not have even applied to UR if it weren’t for Harrison’s motivation. “He impacted all of our lives,” she continued. “I never met someone who disliked him. He helped me believe in myself even when I didn’t.”

Harrison is survived by his brother, senior Marquis Harrison, who is grateful to the University community who he says really out-did themselves in funding the transportation for members of the UR community to attend the funeral and wake. “UR was his life; he would bleed blue and gold if he could,” Harrison said. “Rochester wasn’t his home, but you would never know. He always had such positive things to say about it.”

Shah Afzal transferred from Colgate University in the Spring; he had plans to graduate this year with a major in political science and continue on to study law. He grew up in Whitesboro, N.Y. and was an avid basketball player throughout high school. Whitesboro High School has worked with his family to create a scholarship fund that will reward high school seniors who play basketball and continue to excel academically.

Brock was a leading classical guitarist who was described by the Eastman School of Music Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs Alex Nguyen as an unassuming, laid back, genuine person who lived life to the fullest and without regret.

“He was intelligent and talented,” she continued. “He never lost his temper; he loved his family and had a great sense of balance in his life.” Even while working toward his Doctorate of Musical Arts and Performer’s Certificate at Eastman, Nguyen never recalls him being stressed out and remembers him always working hard. He won countless classical guitar competitions and had just released his first CD, “Toccata.” Brock passed away on Aug. 3 at his home in Toronto, where he was teaching at the Glenn Gould Conservatory. He is survived by his parents, two brothers and wife, Josephine Chan, to whom he proposed to outside of the Eastman library, where they met. A memorial concert is being planned in his honor that will feature repertoire that he played and was close to him.

“The strength of the memory of these four amazing people will keep them alive; it is through memory that people live forever,” Seligman said. “I know I speak for all in the University community in extending our heartfelt condolences to the family, classmates, and friends of Steven, Krystle, Ali and Aaron.”Paret can be reached at eparet@campustimes.org.

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