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MSU pays tribute to students who died during the previous academic year with annual memorial

A beech tree stands in front of Berkey Hall on Michigan State University's campus.
Dan Olsen
Michigan State University officials planted a beech tree near Berkey Hall in memory of the 23 students who died during the previous academic year.

Michigan State University remembered the lives of students who died during the previous academic year with a memorial Tuesday. Among those honored were the three students killed in February’s mass shooting on campus.

Every year, a tree is planted during a ceremony in memory of students who have died. The tradition started a decade ago.

Allyn Shaw is the Assistant Vice President for Student Involvement and Leadership at MSU. He says this year’s tribute commemorated the lives of 23 students. It’s the largest number ever honored since the practice started.

“We had more deaths by natural causes and then some other accidents as well as the shooting," he said. "So, I think in post-COVID, people are still trying to figure out the new world and maybe that’s part of it as well.”

MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff spoke at this year's reception which also included time for families to share stories about their loved ones with one another.

"One of the parents said that this ceremony was their graduation of grief," Shaw said. "Because we all remember the student or the Spartan when they passed away, and they never got to be celebrated for their graduation, and this was a way to celebrate the graduation of grief and their way to be able to not move on but be remembered in a different way."

The tribute also includes the placement of a plaque that has the names of all 23 students on it.

"Once you're Spartan, you're always a Spartan," Shaw said. "And we want to make sure that the families know how important they are and also that their students will be remembered."

The tree planted in the students’ memories is near Berkey Hall on campus. The building was one of the sites of the mass shooting.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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