College Mourns Nathan Alexander ’17

On April 7, 2015, students gathered in Mead Chapel for a candelight vigil to honor Nathan's life. (Photo taken by Emilie Munson '16)

On April 7, 2015, students gathered in Mead Chapel for a candelight vigil to honor Nathan's life. (Photo taken by Emilie Munson '16)

By Christian Jambora

On Thursday, April 2, Nathan Alexander ’17 was found in his room in Milliken Hall after taking his own life.

President of the College Ronald D. Liebowitz announced Nathan’s passing in an email addressed to students, staff, and faculty.

“We know this comes as a great shock to his many friends, classmates, and faculty members. Public Safety discovered Nathan after receiving a request from a fellow student who was concerned about his whereabouts,” he wrote.

The request was submitted by Maggie Nazer ’17, a close friend of Nathan who last saw him three days before he was discovered.

“His girlfriend messaged me worried because she had been messaging Nathan for hours and had not heard back from him. I kept texting him and went to his room to check if he was there,” Nazer said in an email. “All along, I believed he was either too stressed with work to answer or simply needed space from us.”

Nazer reached out to Nathan’s sister and discovered he had not been replying to her messages.

“This is when I thought there must be something wrong and called Public Safety,” she said.

A Public Safety officer discovered Nathan in his room, where emergency medical services pronounced him dead. The cause of death was asphyxiation. In the late afternoon, upon receiving confirmation that the family had been notified, Liebowitz sent an email informing the College community.

“At a difficult time such as this, I encourage everyone on campus to look out for one another,” he wrote.

That evening, students, staff, and faculty were invited to gather in Coltrane Lounge, where staff members from the Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life, Parton Center for Health and Wellness, and members of the Commons team offered support.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of the College Katy Smith Abbott announced a schedule of opportunities for students, staff, and faculty members to gather in remembrance and support.

A candlelight vigil was held in Nathan’s honor on April 6 in Mead Chapel. From April 7 to April 9, community members were invited to the Fireplace Lounge in Ross Commons Dining for conversation and reflection.

“I encourage you to find ways to address your own feelings, questions, and concerns—whether in one of the scheduled gatherings, with your dean, with one of the counselors at Parton Center for Health and Counseling, with a chaplain at the Scott Center, or with friends,” Smith Abbott said in her email.

She continued, “If you, or someone you know, might need help over the next days and weeks, please reach out to one of us.”

Nathan’s girlfriend, Marium Sultan ’16, was studying abroad in Sri Lanka when she learned of Nathan’s death.

“Take advantage of the moments to be as kind as you can to others because you never know when you will have another chance to,” she said. “The last thing Nathan told me was that he loved me. He told me he was lucky to have met me, and I told him the same.”

Nathan was a graduate of The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, where he developed interests in public policy and a passion for sailing. At the College, he had not yet declared a major but took courses in economics and political science.

His loss is deeply felt by those who knew him.

“I think that this tragic incident has the potential to inspire a collective transformation of the social environment and our relationships on campus,” said Nazer.

She continued, “Many of us suffer quietly as we greet each other and take part in social gatherings that often make us feel more isolated. Reaching out and showing support should not only be an intention that remains in the form of texts or words but also an action. Having someone go out of their way to come knock at your door is better than just sending you a text. But before everything else we must find the strength and courage to open up to each other, be real, be vulnerable, and take it from there.”

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:

• Do not leave the person alone

• Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt

• Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)

• Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

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