Students, faculty and staff gathered in William & Mary’s Wren Courtyard Wednesday evening to support each another in community as a difficult semester nears its end. Sharing the light of candles and strength from one another as they were offered an opportunity to acknowledge loss and grief, attendees heard messages of care, warmth and hope.

The program included remarks by President Katherine A. Rowe and Vice President of Student Affairs Ginger Ambler, prayer by Rev. Rachel Hebert of Campus Ministries United, reading of Wendell Barry’s poem “The Peace of Wild Things” by Dean of Students Stacey Harris, and Lecturer and Director of Musical Theatre Phaedra McNorton singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Candle held in hand with William & Mary and cypher on sweatshirt behind it worn by person holding it

Rowe shared Toni Morrison’s poem “Someone Leans Near,” saying she often turns to poets for words and ways of expression in times of loss. “So we hold in our hearts Alex Gil and Troy Cullen, friends and colleagues at U.Va., and all of our loved ones lost this year,” Rowe said. “We’re here for those who have felt that loss most intensely that they also can feel us near them, with them.”

Woman with candle standing at podium with woman with candle standing beside her

“Tonight as we share the light of our many candles we illuminate this beautiful courtyard,” Ambler said. “The warmth of that shared light also reminds us powerfully that we are not alone. In joy or in sorrow, community matters. This community matters. Your being here tonight matters.”

Crowd of people shown from the back in front of lit up Wren Building

Gathered in the chilly night air, community members paused to reflect on their roles of valuing and supporting each other as the Wren Bell tolled to conclude the official program.

A lit candle being held to light another candle

, University News & Media