The 14 members of Lynn University’s “Journey of Hope” traveled to Haiti to find, feed and focus on the poor of that nation. They were there when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the island on January 12th, and we quickly found ourselves the ones in need of hope.
We hoped and prayed for the safe return of all 14 members of our Lynn University family, but our prayers have only been partially answered. We were blessed with the safe return of eight members of the group – Thomas Schloemer, Nikki Fantauzzi, Daniela Montealegre, Julie Prudhomme, Michael DeMatteo, Melissa Elliott, Lindsay Doran and Paul Tyska – but it is with the heaviest of hearts that we have confirmed the passing of the six remaining members. Professors Richard Bruno and Patrick Hartwick and students Stephanie Crispinelli, Britney Gengel, Christine Gianacaci and Courtney Hayes spent the last hours of their lives serving others, and they leave behind a legacy of compassion and strength that we will always remember.
I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the outpouring of support and generosity that we have received following this devastating event. Family, friends, neighbors and even total strangers have contacted us with offers of assistance and messages of hope. And from across the globe, counselors, colleagues, businesses and religious and political leaders have reached out to us with offers of help and support. All of us at Lynn University will never be able to express how much we appreciate these acts of kindness.
Although this has been the very worst of situations, we have seen the very best of the human spirit. I am so proud of all of the members of the Lynn student body, who have continuously displayed unity and strength of spirit throughout this difficult time; our faculty and staff, whose support for our students and each other has never been more evident; and of course the courageous and compassionate 14 individuals who traveled to selflessly serve those less fortunate in Haiti.
In the days and weeks and months ahead, we will grieve together, celebrate their lives together and push forward together. But we will never forget. In the future, we plan to hold an on-campus ceremony to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of all of the Journey of Hope participants, and we also plan to carry on their mission. We will continue to feed the poor, aid the sick and comfort the hurting.
Thank you again to all who have provided us light in our darkest hour, and please continue to keep Lynn University and the families and friends of those we have lost in your thoughts and prayers.
Kevin M. Ross