Rain fell over the Muller Chapel on Sept. 13 as members of the Ithaca College community gathered to remember sophomore Shea Colbert, who died unexpectedly in a car accident Sept. 10.
“You have to understand, there’s something magical about the skies mourning [Colbert’s] passing, and now, with every drop of rain, is what’s needed for new growth and vegetation,” Chaplin Yasin Ahmed, director of Religious and Spiritual Life, said.
On Sept. 10, the college community was notified in an email of Colbert’s passing. Colbert was a student in the School of Business.
At the memorial, which was attended by about 75 members of the campus community, Colbert’s friends and college leadership spoke about the person he was and how he will be remembered.
Colbert’s roommate and friend, sophomore Liam Whelan, said Colbert was kind and good at many things, but the most important thing was his ability to help others and bring positivity to any situation.
“He loved hiking, baseball, ’80s and ’90s rock, snowboarding, but he’d be extremely mad at me if I didn’t bring up how good he was at Super Smash Bros,” Whelan said. “There was one thing he was good at without realizing, and it was helping others. When I needed him to help me move out of my dorm with less than an hour’s notice, and the fact that I hadn’t packed anything, he was there.”
Sophomore Paige Turcotte said she would also remember Colbert as kind, as well as outgoing and unique.
“He really was one of a kind, and he knew it,” Turcotte said. “You just could not resist at all wanting to be close to him. No matter when, where or who, Shea would insist on stopping and making random conversations with any stranger who crossed his way.”
Turcotte said she thought of Colbert as a loving person who would spread that to others and who loved to laugh.
“Shea was ready and willing for any kind of adventure,” Turcotte said. “Any time we went on a hike, he would insist that we stray from the path and find something new that people haven’t seen before. He had this ability to make every moment and every person feel special.”
Michael Johnson-Cramer, dean of the School of Business, said that although he only met Colbert a few times, his professors and advisers painted a clear picture of the kind of student and person Colbert was.
“He wasn’t the kid who sits in the front row [in a class], mostly in the back corner and sometimes he didn’t show up at all,” Johnson-Cramer said. “An impressionist painting of my favorite kind of student; not, alas, the club president who needs your class to finish their third major, but the sophomore who needs, needs your class to finish becoming who they’re gonna be.”
A topic discussed throughout the memorial was the support and resources students have at the college as they process the loss of Colbert. Ahmed spoke about resources and individuals students can reach out to at the college, including the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, ICare and the Office of Case Management. Ahmed said faculty who need support have access to the employee assistance program. Johnson-Cramer and President La Jerne Cornish also spoke of the support students have at the college in a time of need.
“There are 128 steps from the front door of the Park business building to my office, I counted,” Johnson-Cramer said. “If you need us, please come.”
Cornish said the news of Colbert’s death has been devastating, and as a parent, she has been thinking of Colbert’s parents and family since Saturday. However, Cornish also spoke positively of the strength of the college community to support each other after a tragedy.
“We talk about intentionality, connection, caring,” Cornish said. “I am heartened as I stand here right now because you intentionally chose to come to this space, to be there with each other and for each other. You have intentionally chosen to connect and you have intentionally chosen to care.”
Colbert’s friends, Tarcotte and Whelan, encouraged those who were grieving to not be sad for Colbert because he would not have wanted that.
“With everything in me, I can say he’d be so happy and have a big smile on his face to see you all here today to remember him,” Tarcotte said. “He was someone who loved to laugh above all, so tell every funny story you have and laugh for him, even during this tough time.”
Whelan said he is extremely grateful that the last thing he told Colbert was that he loved him, and said he encouraged everyone listening to reach out to someone they loved because you never know what may happen.
“I can sit here and be sad that we all didn’t get enough time with him, but that’s not what he would want from us,” Whelan said. “We need to remember all the good times we had with him, all those good memories.”