Students gathered on Ball Circle yesterday to celebrate the life and memory of Robert “Bob” Ericson, 22, who passed away last weekend. The memorial service exemplified the community of UMW, as numerous members came together to commemorate the life of a fellow student who inspired and touched so many here on campus.
Ericson, a senior environmental science major, was an active presence on campus and was involved with men’s rowing, student government and student a cappella group One Note Stand.
“He always had something nice to say to everyone, and he touched a lot of lives. Even if you didn’t know him, you knew of him,” said junior English major Erica Kreider.
To remember Ericson, students organized a memorial event on Ball Circle, where members of the UMW community were given the opportunity to write messages to Ericson on bio-degradable balloons before releasing them.
Multiple students, faculty and school administrators were present at the event to share memories of Ericson. One Note Stand, in which Ericson sang bass, was present as well to sell Blue Bows For Bob and collect money for the Robert Ericson University of Mary Washington Memorial Fund, which is being sponsored by the Ericson family through the UMW foundation.
Many of the memorial events for Ericson were created and sponsored by fellow students.
“The balloon idea was created by students, and I think it was a very fitting and touching way to remember a fellow student,” said Associate Vice President and Deal of Students Cedric Rucker.
Both those who knew Ericson and those who were only acquaintances came to show their support for their fellow students.
“You will always be part of our a cappella family,” wrote senior religion major Ellen White, a member of BellAcappella.
“Your impact and life cannot be summarized on the face of a balloon,” said junior English major Maggie Stough.
In addition to handing out balloons, students were also offered packets of seeds to plant in Ericson’s memory.
“I’m going to plant them in the community garden at the UMW apartments,” said senior journalism major Suzie Toske.
After a moment of silence, Rucker lifted his balloon first, signaling for students to follow suit, before releasing the balloons into the sky. When several balloons got caught up in the trees surrounding Ball Circle, a chant of “Bob, Bob, Bob” went up until the last balloon was free.
“I think this is what he would have wanted,” said junior business major Chelsea Kopf. “This was fun and light, and not too sad.”
Following the balloon release, the two other a cappella groups, Symphonics and BellAcappella, performed for students to advertise the One Note Stand concert later than evening.
“I think this has been a great representation of our student body and what we can do when we come together to remember someone who touched all our lives,” said Regina Weiss, president of One Note Stand. “I think it’s a really fitting tribute and is what he would want.”
Ericson’s funeral will be held this coming Saturday in Springfield, Va. and the University is providing transportation to students and faculty who wish to attend. In lieu of flowers, the family requested instead that individuals make donations to Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) to fund research and treatment for epilepsy.