Bus loads of students will head to Lowell, Massachusetts, today and Saturday to mourn the loss of Bowdoin junior Taryn King, who died last Thursday while studying away for the semester in Ireland.
According to Athletic Department Administrative Secretary Debbie Miller, about 90 people will be using the bus services provided, while others will drive themselves to the visiting hours and funeral.
King, 21, who grew up in Georgetown, Massachusetts, and had been attending a Butler University program at the National University of Ireland in Galway since January 3, died of a "sudden illness," according to Dean of Student Affairs Craig Bradley. The University of Galway's Administrator in the Office of the Registrar and Deputy President Michael Kavanagh said one doctor described it as "an overwhelming infection." The Boston Globe reported that the cause of death was septicemia.
According to Kavanagh, King took ill at about 9 a.m. local time on January 26. Her roommates, who had been taking care of her, grew concerned and reported King's status to the management of student accommodations at about 11 a.m., Kavanagh said. A member of the management went to the apartment and decided to call for an ambulance, which arrived about 10 minutes later. King died later that day at University College Hospital Galway, Kavanagh said.
"In an environment that is so vibrant, vital, and so much about growth, relationships, and community, to have someone die, to have someone taken from us in this way just shocks us," said Bradley.
After King's closest friends, including those studying abroad, were informed of her death, Bradley said over 300 students met for an impromptu gathering last Thursday evening at the Chapel.
"There was a sense that we needed to get people together," said Bradley. "It wasn't a memorial service, but a chance for people to get together and reflect."
"It was a wonderful, spontaneous outpouring of students needing to express their immediate sadness, shock, and grief," said Director of Counseling Services Bernie Hershberger. "It was a very emotionally moving service."
King's sudden death also shook the Galway campus, which had a mass for King on Sunday attended by hundreds, said Kavanagh, who is flying to Boston today to attend the funeral.
"I feel like Taryn was also one of our students," Kavanagh said. "What was remarkable was that even though she was only here three weeks, she seems to have been very well-known and very well-liked."
This is no surprise considering the impression she left on the Bowdoin community.
"She just had the whole package," said Head Field Hockey Coach Nicky Pearson, who worked closely with King for five seasons in lacrosse as well as field hockey. "She just touched so many people on this campus. She was larger than life. Her positive outlook was just contagious. She was just the ultimate team player."
Even though King, a three-year starter, received First-Team All-American honors from the National Field Hockey Coaches Association this season for what Pearson called her "huge, absolutely crucial role," teammates described her as incredibly humble.
"One of the things I always admired and respected about Taryn was her humility in every aspect of her life, both athletically and personally," teammate Christi Gannon '06 said. "Personal accolades really weren't what she was about. She would shy away from all of the praise that people would give her."
"Taryn was an outgoing girl, who was also humble. She had a perfect mix of those two attributes, something you don't find very often in a person," said Burgess LePage '07, one of King's teammates and closest friends. "She was confident but also willing to try things that she knew she wouldn't be the best at." LePage, who has been studying in Grenoble, France, for the semester, is returning to the United States along with at least six other Bowdoin students who are abroad to attend the funeral.
According to Pearson, King's skill and humility were "just part of the parcel." All of King's teammates admired her as a role model and leader.
"She never got frustrated with you. She was always encouraging. I was a senior and older then her, but I looked up to her," teammate Abby Daley '06 said. "She could have been outstanding on her skill and hustle alone. But she always had heart and she never gave up."
Teammate Margaret Gormley '06 expressed similar sentiments.
"Taryn had the ability to command the respect of her teammates without having to do anything other than be herself," she said. "I always looked up to Taryn, more than I have anyone else, and certainly more than anyone younger than myself."
Sophomore Val Young said, "Taryn was the kind of teammate you were glad you had and wanted to have more of her characteristics. She embodied a teammate."
King left a strong impression on her teammates with her conduct off the field as well, as exemplified by the return over the weekend of alumni players, who had played with King since she was a first year.
"There have been multiple times when I've introduced Taryn to people and felt the need to convey to people what a special person they were meeting," Hillary Hoffman '08 said.
"Taryn has that kind of energy," LePage said. "You see her, even from afar, and have the unexplainable urge to want to be close to her. She has a smile that reminds you of home, no matter where home may be. After talking to her for only a few minutes you can feel as if you've always known her."
"She was someone you always wanted to be proud of you," Gormley said, "who you always wanted to share a hug with."
"She had such a spark. She just had such a presence and a way of energizing the room," Young said. "Everything about her was vibrant."
This energy transferred over to the lacrosse field where King was also a standout athlete.
"She had so much energy and vibrancy. She could laugh through her tears and make the best out of anything," teammate Taylor White '07 said. "She had an uncanny ability to pick up her pieces, make sense of it all, and move on."
King had decided to take the season off to study away.
"Like anything, deciding to go abroad was a tough decision," said lacrosse teammate Kate Donoghue '07. "Taryn felt bad and sorry that she had decided to leave the lacrosse team for a season, but knew that traveling to Ireland was where her heart desired to be during her junior spring semester."
King carried her spark beyond athletics, where she applied the same enthusiasm to all aspects of her life.
"She had this fire and spunk, and you knew it was genuine, which is the most important thing," said Bowdoin Student Government President DeRay McKesson '07, who had worked with King on multiple projects.
Assistant Professor of Psychology Sam Putnam, King's academic adviser, noted a similar drive in her academic work.
"The thing that impressed me most about Taryn was that she had no fear in class," Putnam said of the psychology major and education minor. "She was immediately willing to jump into discussion but also to take it in new directions."
Putnam, who worked on a term paper with King last semester on the idea that certain sports could alter one's feeling regarding aggression, said that King never seemed that she was trying to be anything but herself.
"She was concerned about writing a good paper for herself and getting the most out of it rather than what was going to get her a good grade," said Putnam, who also noted he was interviewed by The Boston Globe for an article on King expected to go to print today or Saturday.
In response to the loss, the Class of 2007 has compiled a memory book to give to the King family, and Bradley said the class is thinking of establishing some kind of memorial out by the field hockey field that would be dedicated in the fall.
Bradley also said a memorial service on campus at a time that works for the King family would be arranged.
"Those of us who were close to Taryn have really been leaning on each other and spending a significant amount of our free time together," said Donoghue.
Pearson said the field hockey team has been having dinner together, sharing stories, and attending teammates' matches and games to show support.
"She had a tireless, determined and motivated approach coupled with true commitment to her teammates," Pearson said. "However, what really set her apart is that considering all the awards, records, and achievements she was without doubt the most humble and modest player I have coached. I am honored and will be forever grateful for the opportunity to know and coach Taryn King."
Visiting hours for King will be held today from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the O'Donnell Funeral Home in Lowell, Massachusetts. The funeral Mass will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Immaculate Conception Church, also in Lowell.