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Graduate student passes away

Megan Doyle | Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A first-year master’s degree student passed away unexpectedly at his off-campus residence, where he was found early Tuesday morning, according to a University press release.

Graduate student Michael Thigpen, 23, will be remembered during today’s daily Mass at 5:15 p.m. in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Thigpen was a native of Monument, Colo.

Dr. Joseph Bock, director of the Global Health Program, first spoke with Thigpen when he was an undergraduate at the University of Colorado last year and interested in entering the one-year master’s program at Notre Dame.

Bock remembered Thigpen as “a wonderful young man who was interested in helping people.”

“He was somebody who really had a bright future. … He was interested in health in kind of a global sense, certainly he was interested in clinical practice in going to medical school,” Bock said. “That was his intent. He was also interested in the humanitarian side of global health.”

Bock met Thigpen for the first time shortly before he began to study at Notre Dame this year. The Colorado native was working on a CD of Christian rock music with Bock’s son.

“He was a very talented musician,” Bock said. “He played in different cities. He stopped by to visit [Notre Dame] on his way to somewhere out east where he was going to be doing a concert even before the program started.”

Bock spent time with Thigpen and other members of the program at his family’s home along the St. Joseph River in South Bend, where he once offered the students a chance to go out on the water in kayaks. He remembered Thigpen as happy to be on the water outdoors.

“He went out on the river in a double kayak and he loved it,” Bock said.

Thigpen had been deeply moved by the summer shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and was planning to turn his master’s research project into an assessment of youth violence in the South Bend area with Bock.

“He was full of life,” Bock said. “His eyes sparkled. It’s just tragic.”

Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Erin Hoffman Harding informed the Notre Dame community of Thigpen’s loss Tuesday afternoon in an email. University President Fr. John Jenkins also released a statement expressing his sympathy and asking students, faculty and staff to remember Thigpen in their thoughts.

“Our deepest condolences are with Michael’s family, friends and colleagues,” Jenkins said. “My prayers are with them during this difficult time.”

The University Counseling Center and Campus Ministry are available to offer their support to the Notre Dame community during this time.