COVID-19 has greatly affected the lives of everyone since its emersion in 2020. Throughout this time, it has taken a countless amount of lives without any remorse. At Kean University, a memorial service was held to remember all who were lost due to this terrible disease.
On September 9 at 3:30 p.m., Kean held an hour-long memorial service called A Celebration of Lives with Remembrances and Renewed Bonds for the Future. In this powerful and moving ceremony, students, faculty, staff and family members gathered in the Miron Student Center Lobby to honor those lost at Kean and in their personal lives. While masks had to be worn inside, it didn’t stop people from coming together to commemorate those lost from COVID-19.
The ceremony commenced with an introduction from University Senate Chairman Dr. Craig Donovan, thanking everyone for coming and introducing those who will speak in the program. Dr. Roxie James of Biological Sciences followed after with an opening prayer in remembrance of those lost. In his time to speak, President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D. called for the Kean community to “rededicate ourselves to do everything we can to stop the spread of this virus.”
Kean students also stepped forth to speak at this ceremony. Jason Pleitez, President of Student Organization, mentioned the difficulties students have had due to COVID. “As the next generation of leaders, we owe it to ourselves and our community,” Pleitez states. “To take the lessons learned from this past year and make new paths towards the future worth fighting for.”
Celina Edwards, a student and dedicated cougar, spoke about the byproduct of the pandemic from remote learning to health concerns. “These moments have shaped us individually into stronger wiser and more resilient people,” Edwards states when speaking to the community. Edwards is also one of many who fought on the frontlines at the COVID-19 testing center on campus.
After the remarks from students, faculty stepped forth with their own experiences and about the loss of a dear friend, J. Barry Mascari. Dr. Chris Bellitto of History and Dr. Jane Webber of Counselor Education, remember how Barry was always a “person who put you first” and “would do everything for faith, hope and love.” J. Barry Mascari was an Associate Professor and a Chairman of Counselor Education Department who will be dearly missed.
Director for the Office of Counseling, Disability, Alcohol, and Other Drug Services, Dr. Vidal Annan, spoke about his experience comforting those in grief. When he recalls a session he had with a student, he informs them that “the pain of grief was not a meaningless suffering that had to be gotten rid of, but rather a reminder of the love she had for her relative who had died.”
To end the ceremony, the community service group, Be the Change, created a labyrinth comprised of painted rocks that represented those who have been lost. At the Be the Change Memory Garden, members of the Kean community walked the path and set flowers down in their honor.
For those who are interested in seeing the labyrinth and paying respect, it’s located at Be the Change Memory Garden behind Nancy Thompson Library. Additionally, if one needs to speak about their difficulties with COVID-19, Kean Counseling Center can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While COVID-19 has been difficult for many, the Kean community has shown its strength and courageousness by being a part of this ceremony. Those that have been lost will always be remembered for the impact that they’ve had at Kean University and its people.