Miami reflects on five student deaths this year
Published: Friday, December 6, 2013
Updated: Friday, December 6, 2013 11:12
The bells at St. Mary’s Catholic Church pierce the cold Oxford night with a mournful clanging. Ding. Dong. Ding. Dong. The last students file in and find seats in the church’s packed sanctuary. It is Wednesday, Nov. 20 and Jaclyn Wulf’s memorial service is about to begin. Most of the rows are filled with Jaclyn’s sisters from the Alpha Xi Delta sorority who came to know Jaclyn when she participated in rush last January.
“I knew the minute we hung out she was so much more than the shy, sweet girl I met during the preference round,” Jaclyn’s “Big,” Hanna Weigel, wrote in an email interview. “I couldn’t have asked for a better ‘Little.’”
It was through the process of pledging Alpha Xi Delta that Jaclyn met sophomores Jane Spooner and Brooke Sabatelli who became her close friends and roommates in Swing Hall this year.
“She had a gift of being able to tell if her friends were upset just by looking at us,” Spooner wrote. “If we were upset for whatever reason, she would do everything in her power to make us happy.”
Together, the three enjoyed late-night dance parties in their room, hockey games and whole grain goldfish.
“Jaclyn stood up for those around her,” Hanna wrote. “She was fiercely protective and wasn’t afraid to tell others her feelings.”
Though Jaclyn always had a full social calendar, she was a driven student as well. She was a psychology major with aspirations of going on to study neuropsychology in graduate school, Brooke said. Nonetheless, she always made time for midnight ice cream runs, trips home to visit her nephews and leaving notes on her roommates’ desks.
Four nights before, several of the students now crammed into St. Mary’s had been with Jaclyn at a party. The following morning, she was found unresponsive in her room. Her Resident Assistant (RA), Ashton Spann called the Miami University Police Department, reporting that she had “had a lot to drink last night.” MUPD sent the Oxford Life Squad to transport Jaclyn to the McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital where she was declared dead at 9:42 a.m.
Jaclyn is the fifth Miami student to die in the last 12 months.
Ding. Andy Supronas. Dong. Nicole Sefton. Ding. Sean VanDyne. Dong. Jake Jarman. Ding. Jaclyn Wulf. One last peal from St. Mary’s bells and then all is silent.
A year of loss
“There is nothing so horrible as the phone call that comes to tell me about a student death,” Miami University President David Hodge said. “As a president and as a parents, it’s horrible, devastating. There are no adequate words to describe the sense of grief.”
Hodge has received five such phone calls in the last year, beginning with the call about Andy Supronas Dec. 3, 2012.
At first glance, Ainas “Andy” Supronas may have come off as intimidating to some, weighing in at 250 pounds of pure muscle. But behind the built exterior was a man who loved his cat, Ducky, and made regular trips home to Mason, Ohio to visit him. He loved fast cars and long workouts and never missed a party, according to his roommates.
Originally from Lithuania, Andy’s family moved to Ohio when he was in high school. A natural athlete, Andy started his career at Miami on the men’s swim team, but later dropped out to play water polo recreationally. As a first-year, he pledged the Phi Delta Theta fraternity where he met two of his closest friends, Thomas Goldberg and JT Corcoran.
“He had a heart of gold,” Thomas said. “He was loving, kind, generous. He was always the person to go to.”
Andy was the sort to look out for his friends at any cost.
“One time, there were these two girls he knew and this guy was being way too physical with them, so Andy took him on and all his friends and got two black eyes and a broken nose,” Thomas said.
“He didn’t even hit the guy at first,” JT chimed in. “He was shielding the girls and the guy decked him.”
Though Andy was always the life of the party, he had a quiet side he embraced in his budding career as a software engineer. He didn’t let his academics interfere with his social life but his natural affinity for learning got him good grades nonetheless. He even had an internship lined up with IBM for the summer, Thomas said.
On Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, Andy had made plans to get together with JT.
“I kept texting him, I thought he was just ignoring me,” JT said. “He tended to sleep really late.”
Andy never woke up. On Dec. 3, 2012, the Oxford Police Department found Andy dead in his off-campus apartment. The toxicity report and autopsy revealed large amounts of heroin in his blood stream and determined that to be the cause of his death.
He would have been 23 today.
Ever since Nicole Sefton suffered a back injury playing catcher for her softball team in high school, she knew she wanted to be a physical therapist. She watched in amazement as her own therapist carefully, gently helped her gain back the ability to play her favorite sport. That is what she wanted to do. She told her mother, Tina Sefton, she had decided she wanted to work with children to restore them to physical wholeness. She never looked back.