On a weekend in early October, a tragic accident left a void in the Bates community. Troy Pappas passed away, taking with him a mélange of qualities that made him at once unique and a very fitting member of the student body.
A first-year student, Troy’s time at Bates ended prematurely, cutting relationships he’d just begun to foster and leaving experiences unabsorbed. But even though he spent only a month in our company, Troy’s impact on our collegiate family cannot be understated.
Troy grew up in Eliot, ME and graduated from Marshwood High School with highest honors. A boy with diverse interests, Troy flourished as a member of three different athletic teams while still finding time for student government and math team. In his time at Bates, Troy continued to pursue his passion for football and focused his academics in math and science.
After the accident and Troy’s death, which coincided with Parent’s Weekend, a sort of stillness seemed to flavor the entirety of campus. His teammates and close friends suffered from the shock of a personal loss, while even those who did not have the pleasure of knowing him began the long process of mourning and recovery.
Bates is a small school, which leads to a collective mindset throughout the community. We collectively work hard during the week, collectively support our clubs and teams, and collectively love the place we call home. Troy’s death taught us to collectively mourn, and to draw strength from our connectedness when little else seems stable.
Directly following the announcement of Troy’s passing, tension on campus was tangible. But so, too, was the immediate notion of the proverbial safety net, the strength in numbers and proliferated system of support, that developed in the ensuing days.
At a memorial service hosted in the Peter J. Gomes Chapel, Dean of First-Year Students Holly Gurney said a few words in honor of Troy’s memory. She spent the days after his accident gathering stories from friends and classmates, and her summation was that Troy was a rather outstanding boy. She spoke of his time on the football team, detailing how he routinely put in extra hours to ensure the success of himself and his fellow players. She said that people had described him unanimously as “charming”, “a sweetheart”, and an academically-gifted student.
“Troy liked to talk about things that mattered,” said Gurney. “He liked to really get to know people” and was apparently persistent when pursuing friendships. It is easy to imagine the track Troy would have found at Bates, one combining a rigorous academic and athletic schedule with a vibrant and fulfilling social life dominated by loyal friends, copious acquaintances, and a general feeling of acceptance within the Bates community. It is our deepest loss that we as classmates, faculty and advisors will not be able to watch Troy find his wings in classes and on the field while simultaneously planting strong roots that would mark him as a prosperous member of our collective society.
At the service, Multifaith Chaplain Bill Blaine-Wallace reflected on the importance of mourning. He told the gathered crowd that mourning is a personal process; no one will feel this pain in the same way, and therefore it is abundantly important for us to be there for each other for as long as it takes. “It is okay to be sad,” said Blaine-Wallace, noting that sadness is a natural part of the process and can help to heal. Speakers stood at a podium in front of 1000 paper doves folded by Bates students in tribute to Troy and his memory. The atmosphere of the service was certainly mixed; a loss like this elicits crushing feelings of overwhelming grief, and yet it is impossible not to celebrate Troy for the boy he was while he was with us.
It has been nearly a month since Troy’s passing, a busy month filled with midterms and Fall Recess and the inauguration of a new college president. In the midst of our everyday lives, it is easy to forget that a member of our community is missing, and that many of our friends and classmates are still feeling this loss deeply and daily. As a community, we should work to keep that intense feeling of support that spread rapidly across campus in the confusing wake of Troy’s accident. Sadness is not weakness, mourning is a personal process, and sometimes talking with peers or councilors is the best way to heal. Let us recognize the fragility of life; even at eighteen, nineteen, twenty, we are not invincible. Let us live fully yet carefully, let us form meaningful and lasting relationships, and let us be a source of comfort for our friends in times of crisis. And let us, of course, remember Troy, a boy so filled with promise that those who knew him felt it radiate.
On behalf of the Bates College community, the Student would like to offer our continued condolences and support to Troy’s family and friends. We will always keep him as a part of our collective memory.