It has been nearly three months since the untimely passing of UR student Jeffrey Bordeaux, Jr. on Jan. 15, 2011: three months of healing, three months of grieving, three months of conversation between students, between faculty members and between members of the administration.
In response to the tragedy, many student groups have taken action with their own fundraisers and events. Students from Lambda Upison Lambda, Omega Phi Beta and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers collected donations in Wilson Commons through Jan. 31 to raise money for Bordeaux’s family to assist them in managing financial expenses resulting from their loss.
Additionally, the Interfraternity Council (IFC), which governs 11 fraternities on the UR campus, has plans to initiate an annual fundraiser, raising money for a scholarship or other “philanthropic purpose” as Bordeaux’s family sees fit.
As of recently, though, plans for a more tangible memorial have been in the works.
The effort has been organized largely by Associate Dean of Students Anne Marie Algier, although she maintains that the brainstorming has involved a combination of efforts from many different parts of the community.
“I just basically called the people together — all the different people that had come forward … There were lots of people out there … We just brought them all together and then we brainstormed,” Algier said.
The designs are still in the works and are still largely in the preliminary stages, given that they only began right before spring break — they are being coordinated by a committee of about 25 people made up of students, staff and faculty from different areas of the University community. The committee is discussing the possibility of planting a tree native to China, such as gingko, plum, cherry or possibly wisteria in honor of Bordeaux, with outdoor benches nearby.
Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, Director of Graduate Recruitment at the David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity in Arts, Sciences and Engineering, who is also part of the planning committee, cited the viability of a tree.
“Unlike other kinds of tributes a tree is a visible, hopefully long-lasting, living memorial — a tree honoring Jeffrey’s life could easily outlive many of us,” Sinclair-Chapman said.
The committee will work with Daniel Schied, Manager of Horticulture and Grounds, to determine the final location.
“I’ll trust [Dan’s] opinion on where something like this would be a good fit. He knows we’re celebrating someone that was very active in campus life and in athletics … so he’s thinking creatively, and I’m sure that he’ll come up with a good location,” Algier said.
Jacqueline Levine, Assistant Dean and Director of the Center for Study Abroad and Interdepartmental Programs, who first contemplated the idea of a tree, met Bordeaux when he was working towards studying abroad in China.
“When I was in Shanghai for two days in December 2010, visiting the IES study abroad program, I enjoyed imagining him in this new world, thinking about the Chinese he would learn, the people he would meet, the wonderful places he would go,” Levine said. “I’ve thought so often of his absence on this program this semester. He seemed so ready to take on [this] transformative experience.”
Levine also brought attention to the idea that students who choose to go abroad are able to take things they have gained in the international realm, whether physical objects or simply new perspectives, and bring them back to the Rochester community — because Bordeaux did not get the chance to fulfill his desire to study abroad he will not be able to make this contribution. Levine believes that bringing in a tree from China will represent these unfulfilled souvenirs.
Sinclair-Chapman thinks that the memorial will also hold strong in years to come.
“Decades from now, friends of his, classmates and family members will be able to walk across campus to find the memorial bench and hopefully enjoy the shade of a beautiful tree planted in his honor,” she said.
Sinclair-Chapman is pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to a project honoring Bordeaux.
“I taught Jeff in several courses. I genuinely liked him and was hopeful about his future [and] his potential,” she said. “I have been deeply affected by his loss. If there was something I could offer, I wanted to be at the table.”
According to Algier, the costs will include about $3,500 for the tree and about $5,000 for a bench, and so fundraisers are in the works to raise money for the project.
The first of these endeavors will be a 5k walk/run. The event, a brainchild of the committee which began planning a little over a month ago, will take place on Thursday, April 21 at 6:00 p.m. and will start and end at Wilson Commons after participants take a jaunt through the Genesee Valley Park. Participants will pay a flat fee to take part and will then finish the 5k at their own pace. There will be prizes, including a free stay at the Staybridge Suites Hotel for the overall male and female winners. There will also be speakers and performances by on-campus groups.
The fundraiser is being sponsored by a number of organizations, including the Office of the Dean of Students, the University Athletic Department, the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence and 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 class councils, among others. All money that is raised during the event, from both participation fees and additional donations, will go towards the Campus Beautification Fund to work towards the creation of the memorial.
“The different people that are coming to support [the 5k] is wonderful,” Algier said.
Although there is a monetary goal for this event, there is hope that it will also promote the importance of solving problems in non-violent ways, as well as result in community growth.
“In my opinion, the run that’s taking place … gives [the family] a real sense of support,” sophomore Elizabeth Hurlie said. “Building a bench and a tree is a nice gesture … [but] I think a community coming together does a lot more than just a monetary gesture.”
Sophomore Marissa Balonon-Rosen, who has helped to plan the 5k and participates in the committee meetings, agrees.
“For me, the main goal is to bring the community together — the second goal is to raise money,” she said.
The memorial, as well as the 5k, are very much a community effort — a group project to remember an active member of the UR community.
It appears that there has been positive feedback for the memorial thus far.
“It’s simple enough that it’s not going to make a big deal and remind people of all the bad things that happened, but [it’s] enough to show that we remember him and that we appreciate all that he did for the community,” sophomore Pablo Galisia said.
Goldin is a member of
the class of 2013.