Page 2December 1, 2010
Mercyhurst mourns murdered dance major
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Watson was murdered Nov. 19 ather home in Liverpool, N.Y., whereshe had returned the day before fromMercyhurst and its fall trimester. As the refrain from “On Eagle’s Wings” came to a close midway through Sunday’s prayer vigil,dozens of students—many of whom barely knew or had nevereven met Watson—could be heardopenly sobbing.Like he had done four days priorduring a prayer service for Watson’ssafe return, the Rev. James Piszker,the college chaplain, strode acrossthe altar and spoke helpful but pain-ful words.“The question comes to mind,‘Was our (Wednesday) prayer in vain? Was our hope misplaced?’” heasked of the assembled.“I’m here to tell you that neither of those things are true,” Piszker said.Piszker and other campus per-sonnel have already put forth a fulleffort to assist students grieving over the gruesome tragedy.
Watson, a 20-year-old juniordance major, was at her home onthe morning of Nov. 19.New York authorities allege thatSteven Pieper, a man she datedon and off for approximately 18months, arrived at her house thatmorning and an argument ensued.Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick saidPieper likely killed Watson, car-ried her body into his Volkswagenthat he had backed into the family garage, then drove two miles northto Clay Central Park.
There, after a ve-day police
search, Watson’s remains werediscovered Saturday morning nearan amphitheater by New York police.“Within a very short periodof time (after her death, she was)dumped like garbage in Clay Cen-tral Park,” Fitzpatrick said at a Nov.27 news conference.Pieper, 21, was charged withsecond-degree murder a few hoursafter Watson’s body was discovered.Police suspect he acted out of jeal-ousy and anger after Watson brokeoff the relationship and a year-long engagement in October.He immediately pleaded not guilty at Saturday’s arraignment and willappear in a Clay court on Friday. An autopsy was performed on Watson’s body Sunday which con-
rmed it a homicide, but police are
waiting for tissue samples to deter-mine an exact cause of death.
Mere hours after her disappear-ance became clear to Watson’s family and local police last weekend, wordspread rapidly via Facebook to keep watch for a 20-year-old female of approximately 5 feet, 3 inches and100 pounds.“She was little, but she wasspunky,” said friend and fellow junior dancer Amy Deer. “Herenergy was amazing.”Friends and family attempted toreciprocate that energy during the weeklong search and subsequentmourning period.Devin Ruic, Watson’s friend anda columnist for The Merciad, begana Facebook group early on titled“MISSING: Jenni-Lyn Watson”that eventually garnered more than27,000 members.“It was amazing to see how muchone person could be loved,” saidRachel Torgesen, another juniordance classmate and close friend to Watson.Many friends have already cre-ated remembrance slideshows with the wealth of photos Watsonhad posted to her Facebook andMyspace accounts.Mercyhurst’s Counseling Centerand Campus Ministry are eachoffering their services to anyonestruggling with Watson’s passing.More than 60 students whodesired to be at her 11:30 a.m.funeral today in the Syracuse arealeft on a pair of buses from the Per-forming Arts Center parking lot at5 a.m.“I do not know how many mightdrive themselves,” said Dr. Gerard Tobin, Vice President for StudentLife.In addition to the temporary memorial to Watson in Zurn Hall’slobby, the dance department is sell-ing green ribbons with Watson’s ini-tials on them for a dollar each. All proceeds will be donated tothe National Center for Missing &Exploited Children. And Mercyhurst President Dr. Thomas Gamble has already estab-lished the Jenni-Lyn Watson Memo-rial Dance Scholarship for futureMercyhurst dancers. Donations canbe made at giving.mercyhurst.edu/jennilyn. Tauna Hunter, dance departmentchair, believes Watson’s friends and
classmates will nd the most solace
with one another.“The most important supportthey have is for each other,” shesaid.
Memories of Watson
Jenni-Lyn Watson’s death comesat the end of a tough year of trag-edies for Mercyhurst.In February, adult student Mat-thew Weber died in his Lewis Avenue apartment the day that
winter term nal exams ended.
Weber was a 27-year-old graphicdesign major.Less than two weeks after schoolbegan in September, women’s hockey assistant coach Kristen Cameron wasstruck by a drunk driver while riding her bicycle in Erie.She continues to rehabilitatea severe spinal chord injury butremains paralyzed from the chestdown in a Toronto hospital. And Matthew Lieberman, a2010 alumnus, succumbed to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on Oct. 6.He was 23. Watson’s passing now carries asimilarly terrible and somber pro-cess for Mercyhurst’s 70 dancemajors and others who knew her.Her roommate Heather Millssaid she was the “kind of person who would always be exploding with life.“She was always about creating ahome for us, and we really becamea family—calling each other ‘mom’as a nickname for each of us,” saidMills, who met Watson freshmanyear and began rooming with herthis fall.“It will not be easy,” Piszker saidSunday night. “It will take time. Butit will ultimately provide us with theconsolation that we so desperately desire.”Hunter, who last watched Watsonperform at SoMar Dance Works’MOVERS & SHAKERS show onNov. 13, believes peace and hope will slowly return to her departmentand its students.But how?“Our department is very close,so we have a large family to takecare of,” she says, “but dance is ahealing art.“We’ll keep dancing.”
Editor’s note: During Sunday night’s prayer service at Christ the King Chapel, inter- cessions were offered for the soul of Jenni-Lyn Watson and concern for her family. A prayer for Mercyhurst College’s football program, which is currently on an NCAA playoff run, was also offered. Some students viewed it as a non sequitur amid the vigil’s somber tone.Vice President for Student Life Dr. Gerard Tobin offers his explanation and apolo- gies to those offended.
This is what I had intended, though I do not think it worked.Life is complex. When people are dying, others are being born. Amom is diagnosed with a fatal illness, and a young couple is falling inlove.Dave Matthews sings, “Funny the way it seems, if you think about it,somebody’s going hungry and someone else is eating out. Funny the way it is, not right or wrong, somebody’s heart is broken and it becomes yourfavorite song.” What I had hoped we could communicate was that while we are at oncemourning the tragic death of Jenni-Lyn, a whole group of our studentathletes and coaches have just accomplished a feat we had never achievedin our history.So our challenge is to acknowledge and celebrate this achievement in themidst of our great sadness.In a short prayer, I don’t think we affectively communicated the essenceof this message.I apologize to those I offended. Please know, it was not my intent.
The Mercyhurst College community mournedJenni-Lyn Watson’s death at the prayer vigil on Sunday.
Ethan Magoc photo
Letter to the editor: The football intercession
Visit The Merciadonline to watch a video from Jenni-Lyn Watson’s prayermemorial heldSunday.