This past weekend, I traveled with Associate Dean Gus Jordan and twelve students to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend Nick Garza’s memorial service. The service took place on Saturday night at Albuquerque Academy, Nick’s high school, and was very well attended—by family, friends, classmates, teachers, and community members.
I spoke on behalf of the College, and offered the following comments about Nick’s time at Middlebury:
Reflections on Nick Garza
If there is anything uplifting about grief, it is that the pain of loss can bring joyful memories of the person who is gone. Through remembering, we come to understand—more clearly than ever before—the love that connected us to him, or her.
Nick Garza was well loved. He was loved in Albuquerque, and he was loved at Middlebury College. In my remarks tonight, I want to share some thoughts about what Nick meant to our community.
I begin with a letter from our president, Ron Liebowitz:
It is with a heavy heart that I write these words to you today. Nothing affects the life of Middlebury College, or of a school like Albuquerque Academy, more than the loss of a student. And nothing is more painful for a parent than the loss of a child. Natalie, you shared your son with us, and we came to know you and your family during months of terrible waiting…and searching…and hoping. There are no words for this kind of loss, or for this kind of grief.
And yet we search for words because we are teachers; we are mentors; we are colleagues, students, and friends. We seek to understand the world around us, and the mysteries of life and death, through study and words. And when that effort fails, as it does tonight, we reach out to one another and we speak of our loss because speaking binds us together as one, gives us strength, and opens us to the holy and the sacred. Ultimately, words spoken among us here and across the miles between our two homes allow us to not only mourn a life, but to celebrate and treasure it, and to announce to one another without hesitation that what Nick brought into your world here, and into ours, was a gift to us all.
You shared Nick with us last fall, and he forever linked our communities together. He brought the very soil and soul of New Mexico to Vermont and in his brief time with us, touched us. He brought to us his passion for politics, debate, poetry, literature, hockey, and music; you may have heard that shortly after arriving on campus, Nick introduced and hosted his own rock show–”"W.R.M. Sweet” he called it–on the College’s radio station. In just 4 short months Nick had made an impact on our campus, and of course, during those months he also made friends.
Some of those friends are here today. They come literally from across the country and across the world. We invited 12 students to represent our College, and all 12 said yes without a moment’s hesitation. I’m so pleased that our students can meet you, and can see this wonderful community that helped Nick become who he was. I’m equally pleased that your students, as well as Nick’s family and friends, can learn a little more about who Nick was becoming with us.
Please know that Nick’s death pains us beyond words. And yet we speak, for in speaking we draw together grief and gratitude, and in that unity we touch the deep mysteries of life and faith.
My thoughts and prayers are with you tonight.
Ronald D. Liebowitz
I turn now to Nick’s classmates, the friends who traveled across the country to be with us tonight. Here are some of their reflections:
- Nick was one of the first people I met at college and for the entire first semester and January term I hung out with him every day. He was always in our room, playing typing games online, watching movies, introducing me to music I had never heard before, or “man-caving” (a term he made up which referred to when he slept on our futon as we napped).
- A young man with a keen social sense, Nick reliably contributed good laughs for all of us at Middlebury. I found that he was a very smart guy, and dealt with his work without much difficulty. In addition, Nick demonstrated great skill on the ice as he participated in intramural hockey.
- Nick was a hilarious, great guy who always put me in a better mood. He made my transition from high school to college so much easier for me and he will always be a part of my life.
- Another good tidbit to know about Nick is that he played “Genesis” by Justice at least seven times a day. In many ways it was his anthem and no one in the Dungeon can play it anymore without remembering him dancing, poorly, in his room to it.
- Everyone who knew Nick also knew his humor: the PF Flyers, slim jeans, and the way he’d talk and laugh and get angry, his face getting red and eyebrows dark, and you not really knowing whether he was kidding or serious, but loving it all the same. I remember his buying ski goggles off the Internet when we were all going to try skiing. Although they cost only thirty dollars, he wore them with the price tag still on them, proud and haughty, and the tag dangled and read “1,000 euros” in black sharpie, written in his own handwriting
- My strongest memory of Nick is watching the Graduate with him in my dorm room in Allen Hall. Neither of us had ever seen it and we had no expectations, but after it finished we sat for about an hour just saying over and over again “that’s the best movie ever made.” When I watch the film by myself now I feel strongly connected to him.
- Nick insisted on having intellectual dinner conversations. I can’t remember how he felt about free will vs fate, but the fact that he forced us all to discuss it speaks to his nature. Nick was an academic. He loved philosophy in general, and he, like me, thought Republicans just had to be kidding and should not be taken too seriously. He loved his friends from home, and he loved being from the mountains.
And, finally, a letter to Nick:
You were the cornerstone of our fraternity of brothers. We were lost in the dark without you. You were incredibly well read, opinionated and inspiring. You taught me so much, and continued to even after you left us. I now see life clearer than ever as you have showed me true insight into the hectic world around me, a way of life that now guides many of my decisions. You taught me that life is about relationships and whom you choose to surround yourself with. I feel full every night because you have showed me this, what I now consider to be the key to a happy life. I think about you every day and will continue to forever. Your friends and I are closer than ever, a band of brothers if you will. You are truly missed and I love you.