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A letter for Declan

William Teschke | Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dear Fr. John Jenkins,

I am writing to you today with the hope of suggesting a way for our great University to honor one of its fallen students, Declan Sullivan. After his tragic death on campus in October, I have spoken to several members of the Notre Dame family about the possibility that the University might name the street near the practice field after him, in remembrance of Declan. The possibility dawned on me when I learned of a similar tragedy that previously occurred. It recently became aware to me that Melissa Cook Stadium on Notre Dame’s campus is named after former Notre Dame student Melissa Cook, who played softball while she was a student here and was tragically killed by falling scaffolding in Chicago eight years ago.

Unspeakable tragedies such as Declan and Melissa’s should give way to two things. They should force us to take a step back and remember how sacred and fragile life is, while also reminding us to cherish and make purposeful every subsequent day that we are given. Secondly, they should force us to examine why such a tragedy took place, how it could have been prevented and how we must do everything in our power to ensure that such an event will never take place again. Apart from these things, all we can really do in instances of such tragedy is support each other, grieve and remember and celebrate the beautiful lives that were.

If there is anything I have learned from my 21 years in this world, and especially my three-plus years at this University, it is that life is beautiful and sacred. I have found myself increasingly in awe of life itself, and consequently in equal shock when a life so young and vibrant is cut short for no apparent reason. By all accounts, Declan Sullivan was a brilliant and vivacious young man with an admiration for and understanding of life beyond his years. It is of paramount importance that in response to this tragedy we all remember, honor and celebrate the life of Declan Sullivan.

I am as aware as anybody that much has already been done to remember Declan. I’m sure the Mass of Remembrance, The Observer’s tribute and the gold helmets adorned with the initials “DS” worn by our football team all made Declan smile, and that they were much appreciated by his family. There is no doubt in my mind that each of these acts was with the loving intention of remembering and celebrating Declan’s life. I have also heard of other possible actions that may be taken in Declan’s memory, including a scholarship in his name. My reason for writing is simple. Declan was a student at this University and thus will forever be a part of Notre Dame. Yet sadly, he will never get the opportunity to walk across a stage and receive a diploma from the University of Notre Dame. He will not get the opportunity to go out into the world and use his many talents and his Notre Dame education for the betterment of himself and others. Declan has tragically been denied so many opportunities in what appeared to be such a bright future; therefore, there should be no shortness of things that we as his brothers and sisters in Notre Dame are willing to do to make sure that he is forever part of Notre Dame. Naming a street running through the University in Declan’s honor should by no means be the last thing we do in Declan’s honor. However, naming a street after Declan Sullivan is a simple and lasting gesture we can take to forever make Declan a part of the Notre Dame campus, a campus he once called home. After all, Declan typified the Notre Dame spirit — why shouldn’t he become a part of it?

Since Declan’s death, we have all been aware of the exhaustive media coverage, the criticism and the finger-pointing associated with it. Much of this criticism has been about Notre Dame, our practices and the University staff and administrators. I only bother to mention it at all because I fear that it may have shifted attention away from Declan himself. The fact of the matter is, Father, that what happened on that afternoon isn’t really about anyone at Notre Dame other than Declan himself. And so it is with remembrance and celebration of Declan in mind that I implore you to consider permanently naming the stretch of road between the outdoor practice fields and the Guglielmino Athletics Complex “Declan Sullivan Way” in his honor. You alluded to our faith as members of the Notre Dame family that Declan is now in the loving embrace of the Lord — let him also be forever in the hearts and minds of all those that pass through Our Lady’s University.


William Teschke is a senior majoring in business. He can be reached at wteschke@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.