In Prayer, Song and Poetry, First Annual Memorial Celebration Remembers UMD Community Members Lost
Undergraduate student Moussa Haddad places a flower in an arrangement honoring Maryland community members who have died since last January while Interim Senior Vice President and Provost Ann Wylie reads the names of the deceased at a memorial celebration Thursday at Memorial Chapel. Below, undergraduate student David Rekhtman lights a memorial candle as Rabbi David Backman, UMD Jewish chaplain, prepares to offer a traditional Jewish memorial prayer.
Forty-eight names. Forty-eight irreplaceable threads in the uniquely woven tapestry of the University of Maryland community.
At the center of today’s UMD Memorial Celebration, the first staging of a planned annual event, university leaders individually called out the name of each Terp lost from January 2020 through last month. About 50 invitees, including family members and university leadership, listened to the toll in a physically distanced ceremony at Memorial Chapel, along with many more virtual attendees.
“We will read their names so we can remember and honor them, but also to remind ourselves that these individuals are not statistics,” said Imam Tarif Shraim, UMD Muslim chaplain in a welcome message. “These were fellow community members—students, faculty, faculty emeriti and staff. They were sons and daughters. They were wives and husbands as well as mothers and fathers.”
The university is a “community of excellence” built by all its members—who contribute curiosity, mentorship and hard work—UMD President Darryll J. Pines told the audience. All deserve recognition, including those who’ve passed away, he said.
“This ceremony is symbolic of what it means to be part of the Terrapin family,” Pines said. “While we may mourn apart, we also join together to lean on one another through this shared experience. It is important to me that we take this time to remember, to reflect and to recognize each individual. We are proud that each one of them is a Terp.”
The ceremony also featured a prelude and postlude by saxophonist Tom Ruggieri, coordinator of the Faculty-Staff Assistance Program; an a capella performance of “Amazing Grace” by singer Christian Isaiah Simmons M.M. ‘21; a memorial prayer and candle lighting by Rabbi Eli Backman, UMD Jewish chaplain, assisted by David Rekhtman ’21; a reading of names of the deceased by Vice President for Student Affairs Patty Perillo, Interim Senior Vice President and Provost Ann Wylie and Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Carlo Colella, each joined by a student placing a flower for those who have passed; and the reading of an original poem, “The Rocks in Our Pockets,” by Lei Danielle Escobal ’24.
Although the memorial celebration is not linked specifically the ongoing pandemic, the limitations COVID-19 has imposed on normal gatherings makes communal celebrations of the lives of friends, family and colleagues vital, said the Rev. Holly Ulmer, United Campus Ministry chaplain.
“We come to celebrate the countless ways our loved ones have blessed us in our individual lives, and collectively here at the University of Maryland and beyond,” she said. “Let us share tears, joys, beloved memories, and honor each precious individual by name. Each dear one shall live in our hearts forever, as will the love and experiences shared. We will always remember you. “
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