Students, faculty and staff gathered in the Center for Diversity & Community Thursday afternoon to remember the life of Benjamin Marchand, a first-year honors biology student who died Oct. 29.
Sarah Wittmuss, director of USD’s Center for Academic and Global Engagement (CAGE) and Marchand’s adviser in the honors program, said Marchand was enthusiastic about his studies and had a desire to learn new things and take different courses.
“He was such a curious student,” Wittmuss said. “Ben was so into it.”
Aimee Sorensen, Marchand’s instructor in honors speech, said she remembers Marchand as a good listener and thinker.
“The very first thing I noticed about Ben was his ability to listen intently, but all the while I think the wheels were turning,” Sorensen said.
Marchand gave a speech in her class describing his fear of needles, which she said was both memorable and convincing.
Sorensen also offered her sympathy for Marchand’s family, while adding that it was heartening to see his friends gathered to remember him.
“My heart is breaking for Ben’s family, who entrusted us with his intellectual growth and to protect his emotional stability,” Sorensen said. “I’m impressed with how you’ve come together, and how we’ll continue to come together to honor Ben’s memory.”
Brittany Bamberg, a first-year medical biology major and classmate of Marchand’s, said she remembered Marchand fondly for his ability to always ask how others were doing.
“To learn from that, to learn from how he was and what a kind soul he was and how much he cared about everybody, I think we all need to open up to each other even if we feel like we’re different because, really, you could learn something about somebody just by opening up and not feeling like you’re alone,” she said.
Connie Birgen, a counselor at USD’s student counseling center, said that friends and loved ones of Marchand will eventually need to adjust to a “new normal” after the trauma of his death.
“When something like this happens, it kind of disrupts our normal,” Birgen said. “And, as we go through the process, we get back to a new normal. We’re always affected by this, and changed by this.”
Birgen also stressed that students should support one another, and be understanding that everyone processes and displays emotions differently.
Kim Grieve, dean of students and vice president of student service, let the crowd know that Marchand’s parents are thinking of them, and asked that students keep the family in mind.
Marchand’s death was announced in an email from Grieve this past weekend.
“Benjamin Marchand, a freshman honors student majoring in biology passed away this morning,” Grieve said in the email. “Counseling is available in Beede Hall for all community members.”
Funeral services for Marchand will be held Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at the Custer Armory in Custer, South Dakota.