More than 100 students, faculty and friends of Gregory Mantone gathered at 4 p.m. Friday outside Whalen’s east entrance to dedicate a tree planted in his honor.
Mantone, a native of Mount Sinai, passed away last December when his vehicle went into a rock embankment in Susquehanna County, Pa. Mantone was a junior music education major and played euphonium in the symphonic band. He also sang in the college chorus.
Onlookers gathered and watched silently as a handful of music students performed “October” by Eric Whitacre. One of the members of the group, junior Katie Pfeiffer, said they had chosen the music because it was touching.
“All of the music students pulled an ensemble together and wanted the music to be moving,” Pfeiffer said.
Those in attendance gathered in a circle around Mantone’s memorial tree and held hands for a moment in order to send good thoughts to Mantone. Senior Niki Kukieza, also a music education major and friend of Mantone’s, helped think of the idea to plant a tree in memory of him.
Through the School of Music, fundraisers such as benefit concerts raised $5,000 to plant the tree.
“We came together as a school to plant the tree and raised $5,000,” Kukieza said.
Craig Cummings, interim dean of the School of Music, spoke at the event and reminded guests that the tree symbolizes Mantone.
“The theme today is about love,” Cummings said. “When you look at the tree, think of Greg.”
Keith Kaiser, a music professor, spoke similarly of the tree. He said it is a memento of Mantone.
“This tree should always be a reminder to all of us of what Greg stood for,” Kaiser said. “This tree should remind us that we want to live the good life.”
Aaron Tindall, assistant professor of music, was Mantone’s euphonium teacher. Tindall spoke at the event and sought to inspire those at the college to form a tight-knit community.
“I challenge my students to get to know each other,” Tindall said. “I wish I could have gotten to know Greg more, and I encourage us to become a closer family because of who we are as a college.”
On a similar note, Steven Vaughn ’12, a music performance and education major, said the event showed how close the entire school is.
“There are some people here who didn’t even know Greg, and they still took the time to come out and be here for his family,” Vaughn said, “I’m sure there were people walking outside the school of music and saw how powerful it was, how we all came together.”
Not everyone in attendance knew Mantone personally. Senior Kevin Kozik said that whenever he saw Mantone, he appeared cheerful.
“I never saw him when he wasn’t smiling,” said Kozik.
Students said the event showed the caring nature of the music school. Kukieza said the event was just what it needed to be.
“It was about showing the love that we have here,” Kukieza said. “Not mourning, but celebrating.”
Linda Mantone, Gregory’s mother, said the dedication was beautiful and meant a lot to the family.
“It was very touching,” she said. “Everybody, his friends and his teachers and the administration here have been really supportive to us over the last few months. It really means a lot to us.”
Mantone’s memorial tree is located outside of the east entrance of the school of music, along with a plaque engraved: In memory of Greg Mantone. Class of 2013.
Staff writer Patrick Feeney contributed reporting to this article.