Oglethorpe Remembers Erik Downes ’12

“To wit or know what life may be,

All things do live and pass away.

In solace pace in reverie,

But thine eternal flame doth stay.”

—Erik Downes, written while in high school

Student leaders reserved a full wall outside the cafeteria in the Emerson Student Center for students to express their condolences for Erik's family. The notes will be given to his parents in time for his memorial.

During winter break, on Friday, January 7, 2011, the greater Oglethorpe community learned of the untimely death of junior Erik Downes. A young man President Schall described as one of Oglethorpe’s “shining stars,”  Erik was so impressive in his manner, his life, and the way he treated others. This is reflected through the hundreds of heartfelt messages left on his Facebook wall by friends from around the world.  Everyone who met him, it seems, was touched by him in some way—whether through close friendship, mutual friends, or just his infectious smile.

Freshman Karen Perez said she didn't know Erik as well as some others, so she relayed her sentiments in a simple message: "You are missed."

As a student leader on campus, Erik served as Vice President of the Student Government Association and was a Resident Assistant in his dormitory.  Off campus, it was typical of him to take the lead in community service projects sponsored by Oglethorpe’s Center for Civic Engagement.  In the summer, Erik served as lead counselor at Braeside Camp in Middletown, NY.  At a time when society is counting on youthful leadership, we should all feel this loss.

Erik also was a permanent fixture in support of OU basketball games.  At one of last month’s games, Oglethorpe trailed the visiting team and the mood was somber in the Oglethorpe camp. Out of nowhere, out sprang Erik.  He leapt to the floor, acting as a one-man cheering squad for the Petrels.  Facing the crowd, Erik called out, “We believe that we can win!”  His spirit was so intense and his words so contagious that shortly afterward everyone rose in support.  “We believe that we can win!” they responded.  Those words immediately became a victory chant.  And win, we did.

Erik was a “people person.”  Classmates describe the aspiring doctor as “having a way of making everyone feel like they were his best friend.”  On the night before we learned of his passing, students and faculty came together in support of his family and friends through prayerful vigil.  It was a time of reflection.  All in attendance were encouraged and strengthened, touched by their individual experience of knowing Erik.

Only two weeks later, Erik’s family and his Oglethorpe family memorializes his legacy for generations to come.  The university and the Downes family have established the Erik Downes Memorial Scholarship fund, a scholarship that aims to help another young person afford the Oglethorpe experience that was so dear to Erik’s heart.  I think Erik would have been proud.

Erik’s Celebration of Life Service was held on Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. at Ft. Myers Shores Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Ft. Myers, Fla.


OU Student’s Internship Offers Real World Experience

OU Nicole Kang '12 curated and organized the art exhibit "Push It" at Chastain Arts Center and Gallery.

More than half of college students nationwide complete internships, making the experience an essential credential for competition in the current job market. Oglethorpe places a high priority on providing opportunities for students to gain practical experience through internships and other experiential learning.

Here, studio art major Nicole Kang ’12 shared her internship experience with us back in 2010:

I am the head intern at Atlanta’s oldest gallery, Chastain Arts Center and Gallery. The gallery director, my supervisor, asked me to curate and organize a college student show inbetween major exhibits at our gallery. In this exhibit, the student work was pinned on the gallery walls by the students themselves—hence the title of the exhibit, “Push It.”

I accepted the offer eagerly and reached out to Oglethorpe University students. Through my leadership position as president of Process, the school’s art club, I was easily able to advertise and put a call out for artists. I also reached out to the Georgia State art department so that Georgia State students could participate. E-mail and Facebook were my main sources of communication throughout the whole process.

As students expressed interest in participating, I was in charge of jurying the pieces that could be part of the exhibit. I wanted the show to feel dynamic and exciting, so I selected works that varied in media, size, colors, and concepts. After denying and approving images of works for the show, I kept the participants in close contact to provide them with information and procedures. To market the event, I created fliers and posted them across the Oglethorpe campus and throughout the arts center. Through Facebook, I was able to announce the event and invite everyone and anyone I knew.

Everything came together on the day of the opening reception on November 12. Right after classes, I spent the day at the Center setting up food, drinks, and waiting for participants to arrive one by one with their works. I directed the participants with the arrangement of their works in the gallery space, and made sure that all of their works were properly catalogued. In all, the show included between two and eight works of art from 20 different student artists, including photography, drawing, painting, prints, and mixed media. Several students ended up selling some of their works. I played the role as the intermediary between the artist and the buyer.

The show attracted 130 people. I made sure to greet and introduce myself to all of the groups that came to the reception. I took time to speak with family and friends of each artist, and encouraged them to further their exploration in art. The event was a great success and a wonderful experience.

“Willkommen in unserer Bäckerei” (Welcome to OUr Bakery)

Nearly 40 students got a taste of one of Germany’s most famous cultural and culinary offerings—die deutsche Bäckerei (the German bakery). Courtesy of Florian Siedlarek, visiting professor of German, students enjoyed two nights of socializing while baking some of Germany’s signature treats and learning more about the country’s culture.

“I was surprised at how many students were interested in baking,” said Siedlarek, who is visiting Oglethorpe from OU’s and the Halle Foundation’s partner school, Dortmund Technical University. Domestic and international students alike took part in mixing, kneading, and baking traditional German brot (bread) and Gebäck (pastry) from scratch.

The event attracted OU students’ attention, as well as from other Atlanta universities, including one Ph.D. student with an interest in intercultural discourse.  Check out some of the yummy action below:

OU Student “Vudu Kat”: Saving Hip-Hop One Day at a Time

“Vudu who?”

Vudu Kat, also known as Alex Clark ’11, and, armed with a videocamera and a Facebook fan page, Clark was poised to restore the genre to its golden days—the music of the 80s.  It’s what old-school hip-hop heads call “the real hip-hop,” characterized by the artist’s meaningful rhymes born of inspiration, passion, and protest— a distant relative of today’s hip-hop scene.

Oglethorpe Blog heard about the lyricist (no one calls them rappers anymore) at OU’s Student Activities Fair, and Vudu Kat shared with us his latest project at the time, a “freestyle” video diary that he’ll perform once a day, for one year.  Since starting the project, Clark’s Youtube channel rose in popularity, and caught the eye of Del, one of underground hip-hop’s most popular artists.  The two worked on a collaboration in October 2010.

Clark says he got the idea from a colleague, who had mentioned that she wanted to write a single piece of poetry once a day for a week, but ran out of ideas.  Clark’s problem was the exact opposite.  “I have never been faced with a moment when I didn’t have a random or creative idea…I usually have around 20 things in my mind at once and have trouble sticking to one.  I think doing a daily video and verse help me to relieve myself of some of that pent-up creativity and it would be fun to have something to show for it.”  Continue reading

One Student’s (Front Row) Take on the World Cup

A while back, we featured a rising senior, Malika Whitley, who was spending her Summer Break the OU Way as a programming assistant for the National Black Arts Festival.  Now, she’s in  South Africa, working as an intern for the City of Cape Town’s Special Events department and blogging about her adventures.  Find out her take on the World Cup, how she’s juggling her new-found responsibilities, and living in a country where she doesn’t know the language! (Afrikaans)

When I got here the first things I heard were vuvuzelas and yelling…there were people running in the street selling and waving flags and blowing their vuvuzelas and singing… I’m officially a bandwagon World Cup fan…lol.