Lynn University Remembers Its ‘Six’ in Journey of Hope Memorial Service
Published Mar. 12, 2010
The gray and rainy day reflected the somber mood as hundreds gathered on the Lynn University campus today (March 12) to remember and honor the lives of four students and two faculty members who died following the Jan. 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. They were among a class of 14 who were taking part in a humanitarian class called the Journey of Hope to Haiti.
Joining students, faculty, staff and friends of the university for the service were the families of the returning students and the families of those lost: Dr. Richard Bruno, an assistant professor in the College of Liberal Education; Dr. Patrick Hartwick, dean of the Donald E. and Helen L. Ross College of Education; and students Stefanie Crispinelli, Britney Gengel, Christine Gianacaci and Courtney Hayes.
The Lynn Conservatory of Music’s Philharmonia Orchestra played several pieces throughout the hour and a half service, including “Hymn to the Fallen,” which was set to a presentation of images that filled two large screens at the front of the de Hoernle Sports and Cultural Center.
As student P.J. Tyska, one of the eight students who returned from the trip, said prior to reading a poem he wrote in tribute to the Journey of Hope, “…you will see what I and others experienced: six people living their lives to the fullest with meaning and purpose. And you will know that they did not lose their lives; they gave them—doing what they loved and believed in.”
In his remarks, Lynn University President Kevin M. Ross said, “They spent their last hours on earth serving one of the poorest nations in the world, and now they are smiling down on us from the land of riches above. They have earned their place in Heaven, and in all of our hearts.”
He noted that the university is planning a permanent place of remembrance on campus and re-affirmed Lynn’s commitment to international education and service by announcing a new scholarship fund in their honor. The Lynn University Global Citizen Scholarship Memorial Fund will enable students to experience educational and service opportunities focusing on communities and cultures in need at the international, national and local levels.
“The six members of our university family did not live, nor die, in vain,” President Ross said. “Their dedication to service changed their lives, and it changed all of our lives. And although they are not physically here, they will forever be alive in our culture, our history and our heritage. And they will be present in every good deed done around the world.”
President Ross also announced the creation of a Lynn University Memorial Village in Haiti. The village will include Food For The Poor brightly painted double-concrete homes, an artesian well and a community center accommodating a health clinic, community meetings, and adult education and vocational training. At its heart will be a Lynn University Memorial School for first through the twelfth grades, surrounded by fruit trees and incorporating an animal husbandry project.
President Ross presented offers of gratitude to four individuals who lent extraordinary assistance following the tragedy:
- Angela Chainer, a South Floridian working in Haiti who ensured the safety of the eight returning students
- Alexandra Mastriana-Solal (represented by her husband, Ronald Mastriana), who arranged for and donated transport home for the students
- Elizabeth Fago, mother of Lynn alumnus Joey Fago ’05, who arranged for and donated transport for family members to the Dominican Republic
- U.S. Army Col. Norberto Cintron, who was in charge of the recovery efforts at the Hotel Montana, where the class was staying at the time of the earthquake. People at the service showed their appreciation of his efforts with standing ovations.
Vice President for Academic Affairs Cynthia Patterson introduced Annamarie Bruno, daughter of Richard Bruno, who recalled wisdom shared by her father.
Patterson then shared her memories of Drs. Bruno and Hartwick. “They inspired all of us to join them in their great passion—helping others,” she said. She remembered Richard Bruno as “a man of great kindness and intellect…truly a selfless citizen of the world…a healer and a humanitarian,” and Patrick Hartwick for his “boundless enthusiasm” and “fierce dedication to education.”
She concluded, “What matters is not how they died, but how they lived.”
Parents John Gianacaci and Len Gengel shared their heartfelt thoughts on behalf of the families: “We as families are honored and proud of who our daughters are and how they chose to help…how they had a passion to love and be kind to others,” said Gianacaci.
Gengel asked those in attendance to make a commitment “to remember our daughters and dads. So, I am going to ask you right now without hesitation to please stand up and show us in solidarity that you will remember our daughters and our dads.” And following his words, the audience erupted in applause.