Campus News

UH honors departed with Day of Remembrance memorial

Five white candles were lit at a memorial service to honor members of the UH community who passed away, including students, faculty members, staff, alumni and friends. | Andrea Fernández Velázquez/The Cougar

On the 90th anniversary of the University of Houston’s founding, members of the UH community attended the annual campus memorial service at A.D. Bruce Religion Center on Tuesday to honor all UH students, faculty, alumni and friends who passed away in 2016.

The annual UH Day of Remembrance is held every year on the first Tuesday of March.

“We gather for faith that they are not forgotten, but remembered in our hearts,” said Stephen Cottingham, director of United Campus Ministry, in the welcoming speech of the commemoration.

During the ceremony, attendees had the opportunity to speak the name of the people they wanted to honor.

“Our remembering recalls our identity in theirs,” said the director of the Catholic Newman Center, Father John Paul Bolger. Who we are in relation to one another: a spouse, a parent, a child, a colleague or a friend. Our memory dictates us to celebrate them, their lives, their work, their friendship, their presence in our lives. In celebrating them, we may look forward in confidence to the future.”

In the center of the altar of the University chapel, five white candles stood in front of a red-and-white floral arrangement. All of them had the same height, except for one. The tallest candle, which was the first to be lit, represented the UH community. The second candle represented students, the third faculty members, the fourth staff and the fifth, alumni and friends.

After the fifth candle was lit, the first candle was lit again as a way of creating a cycle.

For human nutrition and foods senior James Buitran, attending the event was a time to remember a person he spent time with on several occasions at special events.

“Ellis was an alumnus, and he would help at the Newman Center,” Buitran said. “He was a great guy. He loved the University, and he would always tell us stories about back in the day, how things used to be.”

The interlude of the ceremony was “Elegy for Piano,” written and composed by alumnus Phillip Durham. During the interlude period, attendees were able to find comfort and encouragement by reading different religious sacred texts printed in the program that was handed out at the beginning of the ceremony.

Durham said he felt inspired to compose what he called “Elegy for Orlando” after he heard about the Pulse nightclub massacre as a way to remember the victims. He decided to change the name to “Elegy for Piano” to remember all people who have passed away.

“Today we honor and come together in celebration of the Cougar family,” said the director of the A.D. Bruce Religion Center Bruce Twenhafel.

Twenhafel said the 27 tolls heard during the service represented the year of the founding of the University of Houston, 1927. The ceremony concluded with the alma mater, where alumni did the Cougar paw sign to show Cougar spirit and their honor to the UH community.

“Friends, we gather because we dare to say that our community transcends the categories of living in disease,” Cottingham said. “The very fact that their lives test ours is a testament to their presence here today. I am because we are, and we are because they were.”

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