Campus service a source of comfort, support
Arthur Zankel Music Center overflowed with people, including a busload of friends and family from Lenox, Mass., Michael’s hometown. The brief service included remarks from several campus leaders, music by students, and a heartfelt reflection from Dr. Richard A. Galbraith, father of Oban. A candlelight vigil at the nearby Thomas Amphitheater concluded the ceremony; many remained for conversation and fellowship following the formal events.Approximately 1,500 members of the Skidmore community gathered Monday evening for a service of remembrance and support honoring Michael Hedges, Toby Freeman, and Oban Galbraith, all members of the Class of 2019, who were victims in a pedestrian-car accident on Halloween night. Michael died of injuries sustained in the accident; Toby and Oban remain in Albany Medical Center Hospital and are expected to fully recover.
In his remarks, President Philip A. Glotzbach spoke directly to a community still reeling from the tragedy. “A truly senseless event has reversed the very order of nature – an order in which the young should bury the old, never that the old should bury the young. So we come together to share our grief and to honor two of our comrades who have been injured – Toby Freeman and Oban Galbraith – and who, fortunately will recover and rejoin our community. And we grieve for Michael Hedges, who will be with us no more, and we grieve with his family.
“We come together to share our sorrow but also to do what genuine communities do: to care for and support one another in our difficult hour. A community built on care and respect does that. We care for one another. This caring means that, first of all, we simply are there for one another; we are present.”
Parker Diggory, director of religious and spiritual life, also shared remarks. “As we chaplain each other we affirm that what happened does not make sense. And neither will a lot of our responses,” she said. “Speaking with and hearing from Michael’s friends and family, I hear joy at the young man he was becoming in his too-brief life. Michael was able to bring positive energy to this community. Even in grief, there is celebration.”
She noted, “There is joy as we learn of Toby and Oban’s concerning but improving conditions,” and added, “We are here for Michael and his family, for Oban and Toby, for their families and for all who care for them. And we are here for each other.”
Charles Tetelman ’16, president of the Student Government Association, expressed gratitude for the Skidmore community. In the days following the weekend incident, “we have seen the strength of our community,” he said. “In the face of undeserved and unexpected tragedy, Skidmore has come together.” He urged those gathered to “pledge to pay kindness forward in memory of Michael and with Toby and Oban in our thoughts.”
Details about services for Michael Hedges
in his hometown have been finalized as
Calling hours at St. Ann Church from
2 to 4 p.m. (mainly for local high school
students), and from 4 to 7 p.m. for family
and friends on Wednesday, Nov. 4.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at the
church at 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 5. The
church is located at 134 Main St., Lenox,
Campus strength was the theme of Nigel Smith ’19, president of the first-year class. “It is so good to see so many together. We draw strength from each other,” he said, adding, “No one expected to experience such a profound loss in such a short period of time. Keep in mind that as our candles burn our hearts burn with the fire of all of our many emotions: hope, gratitude, love, and healing.”
Perhaps the most poignant remarks were those from Dr. Galbraith. “Skidmore has amazed me with the generosity of its spirit,” he said. “I am amazed at the strength of this community and for the love and care for Oban, Toby, and their families.” He talked movingly of meeting with Stephanie Hedges, mother of Michael, noting that he could only embrace her and share the grief of her loss. He urge those assembled to continue to support and look out for one another. “My plea to you—please do that when this is not fresh, and for other individuals. You are our future. And I am very pleased that you are our future.”
Andrew Demaree, director of the Counseling Center, said, “Collectively we are trying to be responsive and to be available to the community. We have a calendar of events to bring hope the community.” Among those events are partnering with the local Hospice community to offer grief counseling and a reminder that Wilson Chapel is available for those seeking time to reflect. The Counseling Center and Office of Health Promotions are collaborating to provide opportunities for support and healing to students in the weeks ahead. There are large posters designed for personal wishes around the campus; all are invited to write a message to the hospitalized students.