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Drewids share memories of Neil Van De Putte ('16)

DALTON VALETTE – Assistant News Editor

Neil Van de Putte was born on March 11, 1990. To say that Neil was loved and cared for by the entire Drew community would be an understatement. On his way to graduation in 2016, Neil was tragically killed on July 5, 2015 when he was struck by a patrol car.

Emmanuel Crespo (’16)

“I was Neil’s roommate/ best friend after about a month and a half of him living here. We both did two DSSI summers together, this year being cut short due to his death. So we spent a LOT of time talking about neuroscience, computational neuroscience, and even more kinds of science. Our relationship could be described as a series of pranks from day one. He always had a new trick up his sleeve and [I’d] given up trying to one up him. Neil really prospered academically and we should have graduated together this year, starting the next chapter of our lives.”  

Max Dolphin (C’15)

“It’s really hard to put Neil’s character into words.  He was that much of an amazing person.  He affected the lives of so many people, not just at Drew but practically everywhere he went.  He had so many friends, at Drew, around Ocean County, in Texas.  Honestly, I don’t think anyone who ever met Neil thought poorly of him.  He was so delightful and fun that his personality was really infectious.  No matter what we did we had fun.  I’m not kidding, the kid made studying in the library fun.  Who does that? I have thousands of memories with Neil, and they keep coming back to me.  Honestly, I can’t think of a bad memory.  Whenever I would introduce someone to Neil, I would start by saying, “this guy is the Man.”  And he really was!  The funniest part is Neil was this soft spoken, unassuming man.  Yet, he lit up the room. He was trustworthy, incredibly intelligent, fun and funny and an absolute delight to have in your life.  I feel so incredibly blessed to have been as close as I was to Neil.  He truly was one of the best friends I will ever have. Neil had this way of making light of most situations, no matter how heavy they were.  I think if we all lived a little more like Neil, without passing judgement and finding fun in whatever we do, we would all live a little bit happier.”

Kay Phillips (’18)

“He was literally one of the kindest people I met. He would always say hi to you as he walked by.”

Marley Crank (’17)

“Neil is the kind of person you remember forever, even if you had the opportunity of spending a short time with him. There is just something about his humor and the way he so cared for everyone, even when he didn’t have to, that makes him the kind of person you want to have in your life. Although I only got to have Neil in my life for a little bit, he was a friend for life. We never ran out of things to talk about, always had a ridiculous idea for a new adventure/business venture/support group/creative drink, and somehow we were able to deal with each other’s bizarreness and at the end of the day still want to be friends. There is a group of us that was always hanging out and honestly, you could be anywhere with Neil (the library, a snowy beach, a leaf pile, a gold cart, a bike shed—just to name a few) and it was always just so fun. Everything Neil did was fun-loving. I think that is one of the many reasons why he attracted so many people; well that and his self-proclaimed “chiseled features and amazing personality” When we found out what happened I don’t think anyone could accept it. But whether we were ready or not, in an instant all the people I love and hold so dearly had lost, a study partner, a joke in the commons, a brother, an ally, and I had lost a best friend. Neil touched so many lives and it’s impossible to understand how he is not here anymore. That kind of loss leaves holes in people’s hearts, it’s just inevitable. But the thing that makes it better is finding things that remind you of him or doing things that you know he would do and starting to fill that Neil sized hole with things he would want your life to have in it. I will always miss Neil, I will always think of Neil, and I will always wish he were here. But I am so incredibly grateful that I have a bit of Neil with me now, and our school and world is better for having held him.”  

Christiana Tenuto (’17)

“There is so much to say about Neil. From the first moment I met him, I knew there was something about him that was incomparable to anyone else that I have known. Neil was aware of life and what made it meaningful. He knew how significant a simple acknowledgment was and always made an effort to show that to others. Not many people are conscious of such things. He possessed a certain kind of awareness that sometimes is abandoned by most. Neil’s thoughtfulness not only made him a beloved friend, but it also gave him warmth that so many were drawn to. He had a gentleness that resonated without words and a presence that silenced the personal troubles of those in his company. Neil’s friendship has significantly shaped my life. I will be forever grateful that our paths were able to cross, even if it were only for a brief period of time. Whenever I reminisce about his memory, I will always cherish the childish humor that complemented his unforgettable smirk and chuckle. I will always admire the humility that sometimes kept his beautiful gifts hidden. And most importantly, I will try to continue the kindness he had shown to others. We will hold onto your memory for a lifetime, Neil. You were a rarity that gave us light in a confusing place. That can never be forgotten.”

Kelsie Kolb (C’15)

“There are very few people who I can spend an extraordinary amount of time with and not once feel the need to make an eventual escape. Neil was one of those people. Being friends with Neil was just so easy and comfortable. I never felt judged or pressured to be anything but myself when I was with him. Whether I wanted to tell him something serious and personal and ask for his advice or crack a horribly inappropriate joke, I never once hesitated in doing so because I knew it would be well received. Neil never judged. He was one of the kindest, most hardworking and deserving people I’ve ever had the pleasure of being friends with. The time, effort and care he put into his schoolwork made him my favorite person to study with because just being around someone like that made me want to work twice as hard myself. It was because of this that I often found myself heading back to the library with him after a midnight Quick Chek coffee and snack run after hours of homework, or heading to the Hall of Science early on a Saturday morning to find a classroom because the library was closed. His quiet company and calming presence was a source of both comfort and motivation.

File Photo | At a SASA-sponsored event in spring 2014, Neil Van De Putte participates in celebration of the Holi Festival. Holi is a festival of colored powders to embrace happiness.

File Photo | At a SASA-sponsored event in spring 2014, Neil Van De Putte (center) participates in celebration of the Holi Festival. Holi is a festival of colored powders to embrace happiness.

I don’t ever remember getting mad at Neil or upset with him. The closest I ever got was attempting to yell at him while ending up laughing because I was unable to keep a straight face. One night some of us cooked dinner and decided to eat it out on the fire escape. We were having a great time until Public Safety pulled into Hoyt parking lot and saw us. They got out of their patrol car and we knew they were coming up to lecture us, so we all decided to climb off the fire escape into the kitchen to wait for the officers. Like we expected, they came into the kitchen, scolded us and asked for our names – that was when I realized that someone from our group was missing. Neil had snuck away and run back to his room before the officers made it upstairs. When we all realized this, we ran back to the room and started yelling at Neil for not being a good ‘ride and die’ friend. But as we were yelling, he just had a smirk on his face and was standing there giggling, which made it impossible not to laugh or to actually be upset with him. That was the kind of effect Neil had.

It took me a long time to be able to think of Neil without being overcome with an overwhelming sense of sadness and tears. Without wondering about the amazing things he would have accomplished in his life – because I know he would have. But I realize that’s not how I want to remember him. Grocery shopping, cooking dinner, eating on the fire escape, Giralda runs, programming his computer to speak insults to our friends, Hall of Science movie nights, Netflix nights, birthday dinners, sitting on the roof of the Hall of Science nights, Cards Against Humanity game nights, Quick Chek nights, studying so late we got kicked out the library nights. This is how I will remember Neil. Thank you for being you Neil, and for allowing me to be me.”

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Drewids share memories of student Clare Goggins

DALTON VALETTE – Assistant News Editor

A member of the Class of 2016, Clare M. Goggins passed away on July 7, 2015. Her obituary sent through the Bradley and Son Funeral Homes, LLC details that, “Clare will be remembered forever by her father, John Goggins, her mother, Sheila Goggins (née Matthews), and her older sister Mary.  Clare was a loving friend, classmate, niece, cousin and granddaughter, and she will be truly missed.” Friends, family, or anyone who cared for Clare are encouraged by her family to sign the guestbook available on the Bradley and Son Funeral Homes, LLC website and leave a good memory about Clare. One can also contact Clare’s family directly and send a personal note.

Assistant Professor of English and Director of College Writing Elizabeth Kimball said, “I had Clare in my college writing course in her first year and she was a lovely person—very thoughtful with the readings and writing assignments, and clearly as kind as could be. I was so saddened to learn of her passing.”

To view more memories of Clare Goggins, visit swpl.silverwillowpl.com. The Drew Acorn was unable to get additional Drewid comments. If you have a memory you’d like to share, email news@drewacorn.com.

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JONNIE SINGLETON (‘15)

Very few people on Drew’s campus haven’t heard of or met Jonnie Singleton. His senior classmates will agree that since the beginning of freshman year, Singleton has been a powerhouse of energy and spirit. The epitome of a social butterfly, he makes sure to try a little bit of everything and goes into every activity with a full heart and open mind-an attitude that quickly becomes contagious amongst his peers. Singleton has been a well-loved personality throughout his college journey in the forest, and he’s made many friends laugh along the way.

ALLIE MEGALE (‘15)

Few can rival the drive and spirit of Allie Megale. Known for her selfless spirit, Allie has spent the last four years studying Spanish and psychology. Megale is fiercely committed to her studies and has still found the time to ensure the success and growth of her friends and peers. Her energy is palpable. On any day of the week, her charisma and spirit—which she carries in her work as a Spanish tutor, broadening the language skills of her classmates—will encourage you to go the extra mile.

ANDREW BODO (‘15)

In the realm of academia, Andrew Bodo could give scholars everywhere a run for their money. He has been noted as one of the most ambitious students at Drew, majoring in both French and Classics. And it doesn’t end there. While most students in the Classics department tend to choose either Latin or Ancient Greek, he sought out to study both. Across campus, he is known not only for his strength of intelligence but also his strength of spirit. As a peer mentor, Bodo takes time out of his day to help incoming students. From here on, his resume just keeps growing. Not only does he work as an academic assistant for the Classics department, but he also finds the time to work on the Drew Review. All that aside, and not surprisingly, he’s an awesome person to go to for book recommendations.

ELIZABETH REGEDANZ (‘15)

Truly embodying the Drew spirit, Elizabeth Regedanz’s energetic and enthusiastic disposition is one reason why she has been chosen multiple times to represent RISE and Drew to important outside visitors. The leader of Dr. Bimal Dasmahapatra’s RISE research group on “Reactiviation of mutant p53 by small molecules,” Regedanz is well-organized, intelligent, and always happy to help Drew in anyway that she can. She is also vice president of MIND, Majorly Interested in Neuroscience at Drew.

SEONG SOO KIM (T‘16)

You’ll rarely, if ever, see Seong Soo Kim without a smile on his face—but many are unaware of his prowess and work ethic in the Theological School’s Master of Divinity program. Since starting at Drew, Kim has been admired for his selflessness and work ethic. However, his influence isn’t just limited to Drew’s campus. He is also a liturgist at Chatham United Methodist Church. He has been lauded for his generosity, giving to others while never asking for anything in return. Nowhere is this more evident than in his time in the Intensive English Language Program, where instructors were impressed with his endless willingness to lend a hand. Kim is a model for the Theological School, someone we should all take the time to learn from and appreciate.

DYLAN JONES (‘15)

Dylan Jones has the air of a professional. It sometimes comes as a surprise to Drewids when they discover that this well-dressed gentleman is, in fact, a student. Even though Jones looks and acts all the parts of a graduated businessman, his heart is entirely with the student body. He has learned to approach problems with diplomatic strategy, an approach that harkens to his political science major. Jones has had many opportunities to implement his passion: he was the Student Representative in Drew 2017, and served as Student Government vice president. As a polished and astute character, he sets the bar as the professional problem solver and bridge builder that every Drew student strives to be.

DANA GILL (T‘15)

Dana Gill is well known for her organization of last semester’s die-in: a symbolic community-wide demonstration against systematized racism. Gill’s role in the die-in is indicative of her leadership and conviction to make the world a more loving place. She is no stranger to community leadership. While pursuing her Masters in Divinity, she has served as president of the Theological Student Association and has been an intern to the University Chaplain. Rising to meet the needs of her community with a sense of compassion and activism, Gill embodied something every Drew student feels: a call to action and a passion for justice.

DAVID AGUILAR (‘15)

David Aguilar is described as “consummately selfless…He loves his friends and peers. I do not know anybody so kind and willing to help others.” Taking active roles in clubs, study abroad, and volunteer opportunities, he’s one of the first students to offer his advice and time when needed. With all of these relationships and experiences, Aguilar is in a constant state of non-assuming reflection. Listening and understanding are his priorities, so those in need naturally seek him out when they need a supportive friend. His qualities are seemingly quiet ones, but they are perhaps the most powerful grounding for facilitating an atmosphere of love and friendship on this campus.

BECCA MILLER (G’19)

Becca Miller is an effective problem solver with the kindest disposition and friendliest attitude. As a CAE tutor coordinator, most of the Drew community will recognize Miller as the bright graduate student who keeps the CAE a warm and efficient place. Even as she solves student’s scheduling conundrums, She never falters in being a caring and hard working Drew student who puts quality effort into her work without sacrificing moments of laughter. Indeed, Miller’s optimistic attitude and supportive humour are a consistent example of how the Drew Community champions solving problems: with kind laughter and knowledgeable action.

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You may have seen the many menacing personas Kyle Biemiller has played on Drew’s stage—he is notorious for playing the “curmudgeon,” to use his terminology.

But, behind the scenes, he has a different reputation.

“Kyle easily has one of the jolliest laughs you will ever hear. I’d say it’s renown. You hear it in the distance and know he is around and there is a great time to be had,” one of Kyle’s best friends, Shakur Tolliver (‘16) said.

He continued, “It is rumored that if you look into his ocean-blue eyes long enough, you can reach Nirvana.”

“Kyle is extremely hard-working and passionate about everything he does. He is a reliable member of the men’s rugby team and is one of the biggest advocates for the team on and off the field. If I had to choose one word for Kyle it would be dedicated–he is loyal to his teammates and is dedicated to making the team better every practice, every game,” Campus Recreation Director Kerry Klug said.

Kyle believes that the spirit of Drew is one of open arms: “Anybody can come here, we are very welcoming. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past. If you want to enjoy yourself, you will.” And his actions embody that idea.

With his friends, he personally funds a barbecue every Sunday in The Circle outside the dorms. Last weekend, he gave $120—for no other reason than to “spread joy” and give back to his fellow students. This harks back to the three years he spent on the orientation committee, doing whatever he could to help newcomers feel at home.

As for Kyle’s own journey to and through Drew, he has lost a jaw-dropping one hundred and ten pounds since his freshman year. “That wasn’t me,” he explains. “I lost my breath just walking up the stairs. I am a much more productive person now.” Indeed, he is captain of the Rugby team and a regular at the gym, even working behind the desk. He has always loved the outdoors, and participated in activities such as hiking and building a fort with his friends in the local woods. This fort is very secret. Too much has already been said.

When asked about his passions he said: “Just being outside. I kick my friends when they are playing FIFA and tell them, ‘let’s go play some real soccer.’ ” Also he is an avid reader. Open his backpack right now and you’ll find “Alice in Wonderland,” “Things Fall Apart,” “Lolita,” and “Selected Poems by W.H Auden”—“I prefer to pull those out instead of my cell phone,” he said. While usually considering his creative writing a private activity, this year he is publishing two poems in Insanity’s Horse.

This semester he is (literally) acting out against sexual assault, using his theatrical abilities to help make more believable informational films on the issue (the ones you’re usually giggling at with your friends in High School Health class). “I didn’t realize how widely this occurs, and it needs to be taken seriously,” he said.

Whatever fame he may glean with his acting talent, he says he will use it to introduce the world to his mother: “The world needs to know about that woman.  She is fantastic.” He calls her his shining light, and attributes his giving disposition to her: “She made sure we were happy even in unhappiness. We have been through a lot of tough times, but she made sure we were never scared.” This is the spirit Kyle shares with the people in his life.

Kyle wanted to end his piece with a phrase he uses with his friends—two syllables which cannot be explained by means other than their utterance: Sligh-Ba.

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The Forest doesn’t just offer plenty of nuts for the squirrels that call it home. It also offers many opportunities for the Drewids willing to take them. Kishan Patel (’15) is one Drewid who collected a diverse variety of experiences in his time in the Forest, often helping others along the way.

Patel is a double major in economics and political science. However, he has a special interest in international relations that he discovered during one of his summer internships.

He said, “I did an internship in DC over the summer with a small non-profit human rights organization.” He added, “It was great. What was really interesting was that I was the only undergraduate. I got to play with casework. I really loved the international game.”

He also discovered an interest in human rights, discussing how it was interesting to hear the stories of textbooks and classes in real life. He said, “Hearing it from the mouth of the people was definitely cool.”

Patel also thanked the entire political science department for their help over the past four years, unable to name just one professor who was particularly influential. He said, “All the professors had impacts on me in different ways.” He added, “They celebrate your victories and it’s really nice to have that support.”

One experience that impacted Patel was the United Nations semester in New York City. Of the program, he said, “I discovered that my interest in international relations wasn’t just an interest. It was a fun game that I love to play.”

Last week, Patel was inducted into Pi Omega Phi, Drew’s chapter of the French national honor society. About his involvement with French, he said, “I took French for a while. I love the language. I learned what I could in the time I had. I made the most of it. I’m going to keep going with it.”

Spreading the knowledge he has gathered in the Forest to others, Patel is a Level 1 CRLA-certified tutor for economics and political science. He is currently wrapping up his Level 2 certification. On how he became involved in the Center for Academic Excellence’s tutoring program, he said, “I got recommended to be a tutor and I tried it. I loved it. It was a lot of fun.” He is also involved with the pilot program for supplemental instruction. He said, “I sit in on the class and then I hold a review session two times a week for an hour. We play fun games and do activities. Last week, we did Taboo and Hangman.” He added, “I get more nervous about my kids’ exams than they do.”

Patel is also a Baldwin Honors Scholar. About his involvement with the program, Professor of Comparative Religion and Director of the Baldwin Honors Program Louis Hamilton said, “Kishan has been a senior member of the Scholars Advisory Committee, as such he helps plan the budget priorities and events for the program.” He added, “He is a tireless volunteer for us at events, a great ambassador for the program, and generally indispensable.”

He was also involved in the resurrection of Drew’s Political Science Society. Although he enjoyed the club’s political conversation, the ability to help underclassmen majoring in political science was a highlight for Patel. He said, “We get the chance to talk to the underclassmen. To guide them is really helpful.” He added, “It’s a big major and you can get lost in it. It’s good to hear advice from an actual student.”

Richa Patel (’17) explained why Patel represents Drew. She said, “Through the activities that he has participated in, and the work he’s done both on and off campus, Kishan embodies what a true Drewid should be like. Not only is he kind and compassionate towards everyone in and out of the community, he is also notably one of the most ambitious ones at Drew.”

Hamilton also discussed how Patel is a model Drewid. He said, “Kishan exemplifies Drew at its best because he is kind, concerned for his classmates, as well as extremely intelligent and hard working. That combination, to me, exemplifies the best of Drew.”

He added, “Kishan is both quick to laugh and very professional about his school work and the work of the Honors Program. That makes him great to work with.”

Patel is leaving the Forest for the UK, where he will attend Oxford University for a graduate program in international relations. About his future, he said, “It’s a step I never thought I was going to take. I thought I was going to be a corporate lawyer.”

Offering his words of wisdom for fellow Drewids, Patel said, “Have the vision of what you want to do. Have the direction. But be open to change.” He added, “You never know where you’re going to be.”

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