CLEVELAND, MS (WLOX) - Delta State University President Bill LaForge offered words of support on Friday via a letter addressed to students, alumni and friends of Delta State.
The letter comes at the end of a difficult week when Delta State Professor Ethan Schmidt was shot to death in his office on the Delta State campus. Following his death early Monday morning, the campus was placed on lock down.
Since the tragedy, the small Cleveland community has come together.
"Delta State has been a safe campus, and continues to be a safe campus. But, we are not immune to the dangers that exist in everyday life," said LaForge. "Your actions on Monday played a big role in helping to keep the campus as safe as possible."
Delta state is offering free counseling for students, faculty and staff.
The entire letter can be read below:
Dear Campus Colleagues, Students, Alumni, and Friends:
The tragedy at Delta State this week conjures up terms such as unspeakable, unimaginable, and surreal.
That sort of thing is not supposed to happen on our campus…to our people…in our community.
But it did.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the families affected by the events on Monday. We grieve with them and hope they find peace.
Now, it is up to us to pull together, renew, and heal. We are members of the Delta State family, and now is the time to demonstrate it. True, the world is looking in at us throughout this difficult time. But, more importantly, we need to look to each other — and inside of ourselves — as we face down the adversity we have encountered.
On campus, I'm seeing people reach out to others, check in on a colleague, and ask for help in understanding what has happened. We are providing counselors for students, faculty, and staff. If you would like a consultation, please contact Dr. Richard Houston at x4630.
My Cabinet and I have reached out to various departments and individuals on campus, and many colleagues are calling or visiting with us…and with each other. We are hurting, and we are sharing grief. That is okay. In fact, it can be helpful in the healing process.
I am moved by the heartfelt sentiments being expressed by students, faculty, and staff for the families involved, certainly; but, also about each other. What I am hearing is very telling — we care deeply! And, that is a vital ingredient in a family.
This week's tragedy was an inexplicable anomaly; nevertheless, it has affected us in various ways — resulting in sadness, grief, disbelief, and even anger. But, we should not despair. Time, caring, and effort can help us heal.
Delta State has been a safe campus, and continues to be a safe campus. But, we are not immune to the dangers that exist in everyday life. We put systems and processes in place to guard our Delta State family, and we rely on each of you to help us safeguard one another.
Your actions on Monday played a big role in helping to keep the campus as safe as possible. Across the campus, I am hearing gratitude on many levels, and I express my own appreciation to you for how this campus reacted in the time of an emergency. We were purposeful, responsible, and caring. I thank everyone for the smart and quick reaction to the call for a lock down, and for cooperating with law enforcement personnel whose job it was to address the incident and help make us all safe. And, we should all be exceedingly grateful to all the law enforcement agencies and professionals, and to those in our local community who came to our aid in the time of crisis. The outpouring of condolences and compassion from around the country and world has been truly inspirational.
We may never know the answers to many of our questions. We may never understand motives and actions. In the end, we may not even be able to bring closure to, or make sense of, something that seems to defy reason. But, we can talk about these things, comfort and support one another, and look for ways to bring a sense of healing to a situation that has left us all stunned and numb.
To aid in this healing, and in an effort to bring thee DSU family closer together, the Delta State University National Alumni Association Board of Directors is offering one complimentary ticket to each faculty, staff, and student for the 30th annual Pig Pickin' event on Saturday. Please visit the Hugh Ellis Walker Alumni and Foundation House by 5:00 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, September 18) to pick up your ticket. This event will be a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues and students, and lift up one another.
So, as we continue to transition from the shock and grief of the events this week to the healing and hope we all need and seek, I encourage you to stand strong — for yourself and for others — and help fashion a brighter tomorrow that will make this family we know as Delta State stand even taller. This is the time for healing, and we will get through this together.
Yours in solidarity,