Interconnectedness and the Death of a Southern California Student

To:  University Community
From:  President Ralph Kuncl
Date:  November 16, 2015

I write to recognize the horrific events that took place in Paris, France, last Friday and to memorialize our community’s sense of loss and solidarity with the families of all who died and were injured. As you must have read by now, at least 129 people were murdered and more than 350 injured in the terrorist attacks.

One death in particular cuts us to the core: that of 23-year-old Cal State University Long Beach (CSULB) senior Nohemi Gonzalez. She was from just down the road in El Monte, California, an industrial design major taking part in a semester study-abroad program at the Strate College of Design in Sèvres, France. The Los Angeles Times quotes Martin Herman, Chairman of the CSULB Department of Design calling Nohemi “a very gifted student … her spirit and enthusiasm infused the Department in so many ways. She had an indescribably sweet spirit and imagination. It’s unbelievable that this could have happened.” ABC News quotes design professor Michael Laforte, who describes his department as “a small family and that Gonzalez’s passing deeply impacted everyone.” She had recently come in second in a design competition. “Nohemi was something of a star in our department. She was a shining star,” he said.

We know and are grateful that our University of Redlands students studying abroad in Europe and elsewhere, and their faculty, are safe and are as secure as possible. Friday’s incidents remind us that safety is a fragile thing these days. Nohemi could have been one of our own. In a real sense, she was one of our own. And we mourn her as one of our own. We are connected with her, as a fellow Southern Californian, scholar, creative spirit, and student of the world.

The world that Nohemi was so joyously exploring is a complex and increasingly fraught one. What happened Friday is part of a tapestry of broader, global cycles of violence, retaliation and retribution, of chronic instability and geographically escalating wars. As a learning community, it is incumbent upon us not to fear, but to study and try to understand these cycles and this world.  I ask us all – especially our students – not to turn inward, or question academic plans that may include study abroad, or succumb to fear. I ask that we read, learn, and discuss world events even as we grieve those so tragically affected by this latest blow to our senses and our souls.

The University of Redlands community sends our deepest sympathy to Nohemi Gonzalez’s family, boyfriend, friends, fellow students, faculty, and the entire community of our neighbor institution.

With sincere condolences, yet hope for the future,

Ralph