Dear Niner Nation,
It was inspiring to see so many of you on Friday as Niner Nation came together – many for the first time since the pandemic – to remember a day that brought both inconceivable tragedy and incredible perseverance. In a sea of green, we saw the resilience of Niner Nation and how we find strength together.
In the aftermath of April 30, 2019, the University made a promise to never forget those lost and impacted. Nearly three years ago, I took on this responsibility when I became Chancellor. On Friday, we fulfilled that pledge with the dedication of a permanent memorial to those affected by the senseless events four years ago today.
The constellation garden ensures that the legacies of Riley Howell and Reed Parlier will never fade and offers a place of peace and comfort for the students and faculty in Kennedy 236, and for all who were impacted. The memorial offers a lasting reminder of Niner Nation’s resounding resilience.
Installed on the plaza leading to Kennedy’s entrance, the structure unites Riley’s love of nature with Reed’s passion for technology. The design follows the orientation of the stars above the building four years ago.
The idea for a permanent memorial originated out of the Niner Nation Remembrance Commission, appointed by Chancellor Emeritus Philip Dubois. I am appreciative to the Memorial Jury, chaired by Brook Muller, dean of UNC Charlotte’s College of Arts + Architecture, and the Memorial Advisory Group for their work to make this lasting tribute a reality.
Much has been written and studied about the healing power of memorials. My hope is that this tribute – in the core of campus – will find a place in our collective heart to help Niner Nation heal.
If you haven’t yet, I invite you to stop by to visit the memorial. Please also pause for a moment today to reflect and remember the lives of Reed and Riley, the strength of our survivors and the power of Niner Nation.
The memory of April 30 will never fade, and Niner Nation will never forget.
Sharon L. Gaber