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FYS hosts quilt tribute for Rebecca Townsend

| Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Students gathered in the Sorin Room of LaFortune Student Center on Sunday afternoon to honor the memory of Rebecca Draper Townsend, an incoming member of the Notre Dame class of 2019 who died July in a traffic accident before she arrived on campus.

Between 1:30 and 5:30 p.m., members of the class of 2019, as well as students from all classes, wrote messages on 4-by-4-inch squares of fabric as part of the Rebecca Townsend Tribute Quilt Project, a Welcome Weekend event sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs and First Year of Studies (FYS).

Junior Maggie McDevitt, a member of the student-run Orientation Steering Committee involved in planning the programming for Welcome Weekend, said the squares, when stitched together, will form two quilts – one to be presented to the Townsend family and the other to remain in Badin Hall, Townsend’s designated dorm.

“It’s part of a solidarity thing, to remind [Townsend’s] family that no matter what, she’s still part of our Notre Dame family, and she’s part of the class of 2019,” McDevitt said. “We’re missing her as well.”

McDevitt said there was considerable turnout from students of all classes for the event, which was originally scheduled to be held on North Quad, but which moved to LaFortune Student Center at the last minute due to rain.

“We’ve had lots of people. And especially a lot of dorms have done walkovers for other freshmen to come in, so we’ve had whole dorms coming in,” she said. “And students that aren’t freshman too.”

Cecilia Lucero, an academic advisor in FYS who helped come up with the idea for the tribute quilt, said the project was meant to introduce incoming freshmen to the importance of community and service at Notre Dame during their first weekend on campus.

“[It’s] a nice way to bring people together, connect people and do it in remembrance of somebody that is important to people,” Lucero said. “We wanted to get students thinking about serving others and doing good and being kind.”

Lucero said part of the inspiration behind the project was the number of recent deaths in the Notre Dame community, including those of University President emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, associate dean in the College of Engineering Cathy Pieronek and three students during the spring semester.

“In the spring there were so many tragedies,” she said. “Some of that was still very raw.  And I think anytime there is a death in the Notre Dame community it affects everybody. Because you know people who are connected in some way.”

Although Townsend passed away before she was able to attend Notre Dame, Lucero said she was nonetheless a valued member of the Notre Dame community.  Lucero said she hopes the quilt project will aid in the healing process of all who have been touched by Townsend’s death.

“I think people have been very affected by the fact that Rebecca Townsend died this summer, and we just wanted to commemorate that in some way,” she said.

Lucero said the time and effort invested by students into the quilts astonished her.

“I was thinking people would just sign their names, or say what dorm they were in,” she said. “But people got really artistic and it was really cool.

“I was just touched by how people really put their heart into creating something.”

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