By Brooke Schultz and Abby Wargo
Editor-in-Chief and News Editor
Last Wednesday, a group of students gathered together in front of East Hall to honor the memory of Royce Foreman.
Foreman, a freshman, died in the early afternoon on Tuesday, April 3. A service will be held on Sunday, April 29 at 1 p.m. at Gray-New Gloucester High School in Gray, Maine. President Kurt Landgraf said Sunday the College intended to provide transportation.
Wednesday’s campus event was meant to “spread positivity and reassure one another that we are not alone,” according to the original Facebook event page.
Senior Richie Torres organized the event with sophomore Paris Mercier.
“I think the most important thing in this time of grief is to keep the focus on celebrating Royce and the time we all had with him,” Mercier said. “When I first started planning out these events for Royce, I was pretty angry. I was upset at the school and I was upset at myself. When a tragedy like this happens, everyone is looking for someone to place the blame on because it gives you a sense of understanding. Once I started talking with Royce’s mom, Mrs. [Renee] Foreman, it became clear to me that I had to be focused only on celebrating Royce and not anything else.”
She and Torres began sending ideas back and forth, and the concept just grew.
“When Mama Foreman told me that she wanted the people who loved him like she did to be there, I made it my mission to spread this as far as it would travel,” Mercier said. “Death does something to you. Losing a close friend puts your heart and mind in two very separate places. Makes you numb to a lot of things very quickly. The thing about this event with Richie and then the candlelight was that it was the only thing I was really sure about.”
Torres called Remembering Royce a “positive experience” and something that was needed.
“Everyone who cared about Royce and who was impacted by this event, we were able to come together, and mourn together,” he said. “Instead of mourning alone in our bedroom and thinking that, ‘Oh, no one else feels the way I feel,’ there’s an understanding we’re all mourning, we’re all sad; you see people you don’t expect to see and you know you can confide in them and talk about the situation.”
Royce’s parents both addressed the students who circled around them that afternoon.
His father, Royce Foreman, said that he felt supported.
“We made the right choice,” he said. “This is a beautiful school….This is the most comfortable I’ve felt since waking up at 4 a.m. Friday morning.”
After, he and Renee Foreman and Royce’s brother, Reid Foreman, led the group of students down Cater Walk to the steps of Gibson Center for the Arts, where there was a moment of silence for Royce Foreman.
“Please reach out,” Renee Foreman said. “Really good things will come out of this.”
Later, she reiterated this sentiment to The Elm.
“I foresee something really powerful, a powerful message will come from this. I just feel the strength from you kids,” she said. “I was so impressed with the friends he made at WC.”
She thanked Heather Calloway, archivist and special collections librarian and assistant professor, and Sarah Feyerherm, dean of students and vice president of Student Affairs, for their support.
She suggested that students who attend the service in Maine bring a parent or someone to support them.
Students were welcomed to share positive memories before the family toured the theater buildings with some of Royce Foreman’s castmates from “Stop Kiss.”
“When the whole Foreman family went in to see Tawes [Theatre], in the space that Royce had worked so much, people were waiting outside still to give their condolences,” Torres said. “There were foreign exchange students who were waiting for the Foremans just to give their condolences because they were in a show with Royce. Royce just had a friendship with every kind of niche here. That was obviously portrayed during that time. It was a really comforting thing.”
Mercier also commented on how the community came together.
“We all worked together as a community of grieving students to create something beautiful. Something that I know Royce would’ve done for anyone else in this situation,” she said. “Suicide is not talked about enough. It’s not about trying not to rattle a community of those who don’t know how he passed away yet, it’s about making people aware that there are other options. You can see how many people loved Royce. You can see how many people wish they would’ve done more in his final moments. It’s about speaking out, about being there and promising that as a community we won’t let this happen again.”
Feyerherm told students to seek out support on campus through Counseling Services. More resources are listed at the bottom of this article.
“She was making sure that we have support. We’re not told that often,” Torres said. “We’re not told that we have support. The fact that, after all this happened, she came out and she said that we have Counseling Services and ‘we [administration] are always here for you guys,’ and she acknowledged how impactful this event was and that meant a lot to all of us.”
Later Wednesday night at 9, students held a candlelight vigil.
The vigil, organized by the same students, took place in Martha Washington Square on the steps of Gibson. Students lit votive candles and spoke about addressing the issue of suicide on campus as well as Royce Foreman’s memory.
“I’m in awe of the number of people who came out tonight,” freshman Shayla Bartoli said.
Bartoli spoke about the importance of community, and that, “we should live by the lessons we learned from him,” she said.
She said she was grateful for the support that students and faculty had offered her. One of her professors asked how she was doing, and she responded, “Fine,” before they continued, “How are you really?” She said she was touched by this sincerity, and that expressing kindness for “only a couple minutes might impact someone’s day.”
Torres also spoke at the event about suicide prevention.
“This is college. We’re supposed to be going to our friend’s honors society inductions, not their funerals,” he said.
He encouraged students who were frustrated with the school’s response to Foreman’s death to make their anger productive.
“We run this place,” he said. “If it wasn’t for us, this wouldn’t exist. We have to show them what we’re made of and fight for change in the most beautiful way possible.”
He went on to say that in the last five years, all of the WC students who have committed suicide were men.
“For all my dudes…depression doesn’t make you weak. Speak up; someone’s going to listen, someone’s going to understand,” he said.
A moment of silence was recognized before students blew out their candles and signed a picture of Royce Foreman to give to his family.
The vigil closed with Torres’s call for change.
“We need to make something come of this,” he said.
Students can access Counseling Services at 410-778-7261. After hours or on weekends, students should call the Department of Public Safety at 410-778-7810 or the Chestertown Police Department at 410-778-1800. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. For those with hearing impairments, their website, suicidepreventionlifeline.org, provides a chat option.