Campus family gathers to mourn McNealy

Ram Walk Savannah McNealy

CSU President Tony Frank freely admitted he did not possess the words to bring comfort to the family, friends and coworkers of CSU student Savannah McNealy, who was killed in an early morning shooting near campus Oct. 19.

Instead, he related that he had also lost a friend to violence while attending college.

Savannah McNealy vigil
Several friends dyed their hair purple to honor the fun-loving Savannah McNealy.

“That pain that you feel – that emptiness that seems without limit – will recede, but you will never forget Savannah,” he told nearly 400 people gathered to hug, to cry and to share feelings at a vigil honoring McNealy, the beloved senior art major whose murder left Fort Collins and the campus community searching for answers.

Hundreds gather

The crowd on the sun-splashed autumn day included Mayor Wade Troxell, ASCSU President Josh Silva, co-workers from Rocky Mountain Student Media, mentors from CSU’s Creative Services office where she interned, and several members of her family from Highlands Ranch. Dozens of her friends hugged and sobbed, their tear-stained cheeks serving as testament to the grief poured out over the past day and a half when news of her death first spread across campus.

One group of girls had honored their friend by dyeing their hair various shades of purple as a tribute to McNealy’s colorful and creative personality. She had just celebrated her birthday Wednesday.

Help is available

Christopher Watkins Lamb, a spiritual care resident for the CSU Health Network, led the vigil and asked for a moment of silence as candles were distributed and lit. He also encouraged students, faculty and staff to seek counseling from CSU as they navigate the grieving process.

The brief ceremony was held next to Meridian Avenue, where the now familiar bright orange “Ram Walk” stripe guides the football team to the new stadium on gamedays. Creative Services designer Lauren Kroll and McNealy worked together on the project, which was completed this summer. Kroll placed a bouquet on the orange-painted pavement prior to the ceremony.

Savannah McNealy vigil
CSU President Tony Frank offered hope to attendees.

Proud achievement

“I asked to have Savannah assigned to the project with me because I knew she would do a great job and I wanted her to have something really cool for her portfolio when she graduated in December,” said Kroll, who also had been a Creative Services intern before graduating from CSU. “We did everything – came up with the design, laid it all out on the pavement with chalk and stepped everything off to make sure it would work.  She was so proud of it.

“Savannah was high-spirited and fun-loving, and everyone in the office loved her. She was really starting to blossom as a creative, and was going to have a great career.”

Frank offered a message of hope.

“Within each of you is this amazing ability to mold good from evil, to draw light from darkness, to plant healing and growth in the fields of tragedy,” he said. “Take time to grieve, take care of each other, and take care of yourself.”

Memorial service Monday

A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23, at DeKoevend Park, 6301 S. University Blvd. in Centennial.