More than 500 members of the campus community gathered for a heartfelt service in Memorial Chapel Friday night to mourn the loss of Sean Murphy.
A senior majoring in psychology, Murphy was a passenger in a car that crashed in nearby East Greenbush early Wednesday morning. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The 30-minute service began with a prayer from Frank Thomas, the College's Catholic chaplain. Calling Murphy a gift to all those who knew him, he urged people to "find the strength to carry on in the face of this tragedy."
A series of speakers followed, including President Stephen Ainlay, Murphy's roommates and Sigma Chi fraternity brothers, and religious and academic leaders from campus.
Ainlay, the father of two sons not much older than the 22-year-old Murphy, said Union was made better by Murphy's presence on campus. He described the close-knit community that makes Union special, noting that "when we lose one of our members, there is a hole, a tear in the fabric of our community."
His voice breaking at times, Ainlay said his two boys call him a fixer.
"I can't fix this," he said.
Mark Wunderlich, dean of studies, shared thoughts from faculty members who taught Murphy. Jewish chaplain and Hillel Director Bonnie Cramer read Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my Shepherd").
Then, one by one, some of Murphy's fraternity brothers approached the stage. To them, he was simply "Murph." Their emotions still raw since learning of his death, they spoke of a loyal, sincere friend adept at making people laugh.
Daniel Gross '13, recounted a trip some of the brothers took last year to Key West, Fla., in an RV. Murphy was put in charge of the radio. He rewarded his travel party by putting rapper Ludacris' song, "Georgia," on repeat through the southern state.
"He was the best co-pilot you could ask for, whether driving or in life," he said.
Daniel Costigan '13 talked of Murphy's love of the Washington Redskins and Virginia Tech Hokies football team. Luke Johnson '13 recalled a Sunday afternoon driving back to Schenectady from a wedding when he got a text from Murphy: "Dude, we got a feather disaster." Ten minutes later, Murphy texted again: "And I mean a feather disaster." Johnson later learned his blue down comforter had somehow been ripped while he was gone.
"But rather than containing the feathers, he (Murphy) decided he would make our room a snow globe."
As George Haydock '14 said, "Murph could make a joke about anything."
As the service came to a close, a collection of photographs of Murphy at various times in his life served as a backdrop to words of hope offered from Viki Brooks, director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and campus Protestant minister.
"As you leave this gathering, look for hope in the frames of your own contexts," she said. "Search for wholeness even as you struggle with this loss and be mindful of the wealth of people prepared to support you in your grief and walk with you through your questioning."
When she finished, Murphy's father, Stephen, asked to speak. He attended the service along with his wife, Coreen, and other family members.
He thanked the campus community for giving the family "a glimmer of light in the very dark place we are at right now."
Then, barely holding back sobs, he said, "Sean had a great 22 years. We want to thank the Union family for making what turned out to be the last phase of his life, the best phase of his life."
The service concluded with a piano interlude of Psalm 121 ("Our help is in the name of the Lord") by Professor of Music Dianne McMullen.
A candlelight vigil was held around the Nott Memorial later in the evening.
A funeral for Murphy will be held 11 a.m. Monday at the Parish of Mater Christi, 40 Hopewell St., Albany. A viewing will be Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m., also at the church.