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Gone but not forgotten

Marisa Iati | Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Although three members of the Class of 2012 will not walk at commencement, their legacies continue to shape Notre Dame’s campus.

Sam Marx, a resident of Duncan Hall, passed away from cancer July 29, 2009, following his freshman year.

Senior Tighe Beach, a friend of Marx, said he was inspired by Marx’s positive outlook on life.

“Sam dared to be happy,” he said.  “He dared to revel in the beauty of life, despite the poor hand that life dealt him. He was truly a renaissance man. In his short time at the University, Sam changed the lives of those around him forever.”

During the academic year following Marx’s death, senior Mike Oliver organized Duncan residents to participate in The Bald and the Beautiful event in Marx’s honor.

“He was battling cancer for a number of years, so my sophomore year, I decided that we really needed to get Duncan involved and bring that awareness to the cause,” Oliver said. “A lot of the current sophomores that knew Sam decided to shave their heads.”

Since the first year when 45 residents participated in the event, Oliver said Duncan Hall has continued to be involved.

Oliver said approximately 80 men from Duncan participated in the 2012 event and raised more than $8,000 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. 

“This year especially, a lot of the people we asked to shave their heads didn’t know Sam,” Oliver said. “It was just really neat to see his life go on and live on through the event.”

Former Duncan rector Fr. Thomas Eckert said Duncan’s participation in The Bald and the Beautiful is a testament to Marx’s impact on the hall.

“Each year the Duncan Highlanders turn out in huge numbers to shave their heads, raising thousands of dollars for children’s cancer research,” Eckert said. “Because we had the opportunity to know Sam and the whole Marx family, Highlanders for generations to come will do their part in fighting cancer. “

Senior Luke Mansour said spending time with Marx was always a source of comfort during Mansour’s difficult transition to college.

“The things I learned from him in a few months were as valuable as the education I’ve received at Notre Dame,” Mansour said. “He truly loved life and did more in his years than many do in a lifetime … The time I spent with him here will always be one of the highlights of my life.”

After Declan Sullivan died in a scissor lift accident Oct. 27, 2010, Notre Dame and the Indiana Department of Labor launched a campaign to promote aerial lift safety. 

The UpRight! Campaign provides safety information for those who work with aerial lifts at universities, colleges and high schools around the country.

The campaign originated after Notre Dame reached a settlement with the Indiana Department of Labor in July 2011. Developing a nationwide education program about scissor lift safety was a component of the settlement.

Declan’s father, Barry Sullivan, said he was pleased the University began the initiative. He said he created a video message for the campaign’s website encouraging people to take lift safety seriously.

“We’re just very pleased with the way that the University has treated us and everything that they’ve done for us since Declan died,” Barry said.

The University also installed a remote video system in March 2011 for its football practice fields, eliminating the need for elevated scissor lifts to film practices.

Shortly after Sullivan’s death, current senior Marc Anthony Rosa said describing his friend was an “impossible task.” (Editor’s note: Rosa is a columnist for The Observer’s Viewpoint section.)

“He’s an unbelievably unique soul that, when you meet him, he’s completely addicting to be around,” he said. “He’s nonstop energy. He’s like no one else you’ve ever met. Although he may not be here, his soul [will not] leave this campus and the people who’ve known him.”

The senior class overwhelmingly supported honoring Declan’s memory through the Class of 2012 Senior Legacy Fund, senior fund co-chair Sylvia Banda said. The fund will benefit the Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund.

“Donations to the Senior Legacy will assist students who are not only in financial need, but who also have demonstrated the traits that made Declan original, whether through a particular interest in filmmaking, service to underprivileged youth, creative writing or other passions,” Banda said. “The response to this fund has been wonderful.”

Before senior week, approximately 600 donors contributed more than $30,000 to the Senior Legacy Fund, Banda said. 

Barry Sullivan said he and his family were touched Declan’s classmates chose to commemorate his memory.

Fifth-year student and former Zahm House resident Xavier Murphy passed away after a short battle with leukemia Oct. 11, 2011.

Zahm rector Corry Colonna said although Murphy was quiet, he was involved in most of the hall’s activities, especially its athletic teams. Murphy was lived an active faith life and participated in Zahm’s religious liturgies, he said. 

“It was a quiet leadership, a quiet presence, but one where every time you saw him he had a great big smile on his face that I think sort of spoke volumes of how much he loved Notre Dame, and loved Zahm and loved the people that he was with,” Colonna said. “His positive energy and his love of life and his strong faith, those were ways that he contributed most to all of our lives.”

A few weeks after Murphy’s death, Zahm organized its “Raise an X for X” campaign, asking students to make an “X” with their arms during the football broadcast. Colonna said the hall began the initiative when Murphy was in the hospital so he could see the student body show its support for him on television.

After Murphy’s death, Colonna said he and Murphy’s friends decided to expand upon the campaign. Zahm recruited five co-sponsors to promote the program, Colonna said.

“It was amazing to me when, not only the student body section, but everyone in the entire stadium, stood up and raised their arms in tribute to Xavier,” he said. “I think that was a real beautiful moment of prayer … And his parents said more than once how much he would have loved all of that.”

Senior Daniel Duffey, a friend of Murphy’s, said the “X” Zahm residents usually raise to distinguish themselves from the rest of the student body meant much more the day of the campaign.

“The joining of the entire Notre Dame nation to ‘Raise an X for X’ showed that we were not only members of Zahm, Fisher, or Dillon, Lyons, [Breen-Phillips] or Cavanaugh, but loyal sons and daughters of Notre Dame paying tribute to one of our own,” he said. 

Colonna said Zahm sold T-shirts and bandannas as part of the campaign. He said $5,000 of the money raised went to a scholarship fund in honor of Murphy organized by his high school, Guerin Catholic in Anderson, Ind. Zahm also donated more than $2,000 to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and the Murphy family, Colonna said.

“Raise an X for X” showed what Xavier meant to Zahm and Notre Dame, Duffy said.

“Because of the profound impact he had on our community, Zahm will never forget Xavier Murphy,” he said. “And from now on, whenever we raise an ‘X’ in Notre Dame Stadium, I know Xavier’s raising one right back at us from heaven.”