University, community pull together in wake of student death

Plainview clergy and the Wayland Baptist University family came together in support of students and others affected by the apparent suicide of a Wayland student.

Meghan Gill, 19, was found dead in a university-owned residence shortly after 1 a.m. March 28, 2002. At 10 a.m., university officials called off classes to gather students, faculty and staff into the university cafeteria for a special information and prayer time.

During the meeting, in which nearly 100 percent of the residential student body was in attendance, Dean of Student Emmitt Tipton and President Dr. Paul Armes addressed students about the situation and urged them to work through their grief with faculty, staff and other students. About 50 community members - including clergy from all faiths and crisis counselors - were present to provide counseling support for those affected.

Through tears and with a heavy heart, Baptist Student Ministries Director Donnie Brown addressed the students with a simple message, "God is bigger." He also led the gathering in a verse of "How Great Thou Art."

Armes brought comfort to the university family through scripture, quoting Romans 8:37-39 as a source of peace.

"There are some mysterious things in life. Sometimes we search for answers when there are no clear answers," Armes said.

"Even if we had all the answers, our hearts would still hurt because we sometimes lose loved ones. Those of us who remain must now somehow find the strength to go on and live and work and love."

Campus counselor Brian McClenagan urged students to seek counseling if they felt it necessary and to bring added grief by wondering what they could have done differently.

"I left campus this morning about 6 a.m. and the sun was coming up, and I wasn't sure it would," he said. "But it will come up again tomorrow, and the next day . . . and I want you all around to see it."

The university gave students leeway as far as attending classes on Wednesday. Armes added that a letter is being sent to each current student's parents letting them know what the university is doing to help students deal with the incident.