“Always in our hearts. We love you, Luke.”
Those words coming from classmates with the Geneva Study Group 4,000 miles away proved as poignant and powerful as those shared within the walls of Memorial Chapel on Monday afternoon.
The outpouring of emotional tributes, amusing anecdotes, and shared stories helped ease the pain of those gathered at a memorial service for Luke Stalker ’14, who died March 10.
Colgate chaplain Mark Shiner said the memorial was a time “to celebrate a beautiful life,” but he acknowledged the profound sense of loss shared by those in the Chapel and the scores of others watching via a live webcast. (Watch the archived video.)
Stalker, 21, had attended the Journeys School of Teton Science Schools in Jackson, Wyo., and was an international relations and peace and conflict studies double major while at Colgate. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta and several other student groups.
Phi Delt brothers, friends, faculty members, and administrators spoke of Stalker’s insatiable curiousity, energetic presence, keen intellect, kindness and loyalty, unflinching honesty, thirst for adventure, “mad goofiness,” and cosmopolitan concern for others.
As several pointed out, his ‘Gate card photo, taken his first year on campus, showed him with both his trademark grin and a black eye acquired after sticking up for a friend.
President Jeffrey Herbst spoke of the great void left on campus by the junior’s death and the need for acceptance that Colgate’s hope to be part of his future will not be realized.
Two faculty members, Xan Karn and Stephanie Fishel, also rose to talk about the joys of teaching the “passionate scrapper, adventurer, and rascal” who contributed so much to their classroom discussions.
Stalker’s mom and dad, Anne and Peter, sister Laura, and close family friends attended the service and expressed thanks for the outpouring of support they received when the tragic news “crashed into their homes” and shook them to their very core. His parents spoke lovingly of their “high-fiving, sassy, global citizen of a son” who had a big mirthful laugh that would light up a room.
The moving ceremony also featured a poem by Stalker’s girlfriend, Sammi Werthen ’14, and three photo slide shows that offered glimpses of Stalker as a child, exploring Geneva with his study group classmates, and as a student at Colgate.
The Colgate 13 and The Resolutions a cappella groups performed during the service, which opened with the ringing of the Chapel bells. Phi Delta Theta held a special ritual at the chapter house right after the service.
In addition to his parents and sister, Stalker is survived by two other sisters: Emily Hardwick and Helen Stalker. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that gifts be made to the newly created Teton Science Schools’ Luke Stalker Program of Global Initiatives. Funds from the program will support both Colgate and the Journeys School.