Earlier this afternoon, we received news from an email by Dean Lisa Rosen-Metsch that Columbia School of General Studies student Matthew Summerill has passed away.
Summerill was struck by lightning on August 23 while swimming with friends, and succumbed to his injuries after weeks of hospitalization. Summerill was described by a friend as “adventurous, but always cautious,” and by his father as “a warm, energetic, intelligent young man who truly found himself at Columbia.” The news comes along with news of the death of fellow GS student Christopher Lopez; our post about Christopher can be found here.
The full text of Dean Rosen-Metsch’s email follows below, along with on-campus resources for those affected.
I am heartbroken to share with you the news that we have lost two members of our GS community in separate incidents.
We were notified yesterday by family that GS undergraduate Christopher Lopez took his own life on September 5. We also learned yesterday that GS undergraduate Matthew Summerill, after having been in intensive care for the past three weeks, succumbed to injuries suffered when he was struck by lightning on August 23.
To begin the healing process, I want to share a little bit about both of our students, with recognition that we will always fall short of capturing fully the lives our students lived. I also want to remind all of us that we are not alone in dealing with loss. Challenging times like these require our community to be deliberate in supporting each other. I encourage you to attend the drop-in hours described below with CPS, and to connect individually with peers, advisors, faculty, and members of our Columbia Health team. Remember to check in with friends and classmates who may be in need of support. As always, you can reach out to your academic advisor directly, and the staff at CPS and members of the Office of the University Chaplain are all available to
provide you with additional support. I have listed contact information and additional resources below.
Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Christopher Lopez grew up in Avondale, AZ and achieved his childhood dream when he joined the United States Marine Corps, where he served for eight years, most recently as a Contingency Contract Specialist. Christopher came to Columbia in the fall of 2017 and was pursuing a degree in creative writing.
Christopher’s family recently held a memorial for him in Arizona. They describe him as a brilliant, kind, warm person and encourage those who would like to honor his memory to donate to the Humane Society or the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Those at GS who knew him best spoke with great affection about a quiet, unassuming student whose passion lay in writing—in creating—in art and poetry, observation and reflection. They recall a student who met his studies and time at GS with curiosity and with a desire to explore his own experiences through the creative process. His observations about himself and the world demonstrated his desire to embrace his academic experience and to give back to the world by sharing his unique perspective through his creativity.
Matthew Summerill came to Columbia in 2016 from Northern Virginia and was pursuing a double major in Economics-Mathematics and Psychology.
Matthew’s father described a warm, energetic, intelligent young man who truly found himself at Columbia. In addition to his passionate approach to academic life at Columbia, Matthew was an avid hiker, biker, and adventurer, having earlier this summer hiked to the summit of 26 “fourteeners” in Colorado. People who worked closely with Matthew recall a student full of energy and promise whose personality could best be described with the term ‘contagious enthusiasm.’ Matthew lived every day with gratitude, curiosity, and excitement. He was always actively and fully living life and seeking to be the pick-me-up to others who might need it. He will be remembered for his radiant smile, deep passion for life and learning, and warm
spirit of wonder and appreciation, which will remain an inspiration for us all.
Learning of these two tragedies on the same day has been extremely difficult and I know it will affect our entire community, regardless of whether we knew the students. The entire staff at Columbia GS, as well as our colleagues throughout the campus, are available to offer continued support to GS students. The Dean of Students Office will have regular walk-in hours and Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) will host drop-in hours from 6 – 9 p.m. today and tomorrow on the fifth floor of Lerner Hall. Additionally, Amber Griffiths (email@example.com), our associate dean for wellness, will host special walk-in hours this afternoon from 1 – 5 p.m. and tomorrow from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
With deepest sympathy,
GS Dean of Students Office
Counseling and Psychological Services
5th and 8th Floor Lerner Hall
Office of the University Chaplain
Live Well | Learn Well
Office of University Life
Call this anonymous peer listening service at 212-854-7777, 10:00 p.m.–3:00 a.m.
Dean of Studies Office: 105 Milbank Hall, (212) 854-2024
Furman Counseling Center: 100 Hewitt Hall, (212) 854-2092
After-hours psychological emergency line: (855) 622-1903
After-hours clinician on-call: (855) 622-1903
International SOS for those students who are abroad can contact +1-215-942-8478