The Lesson that Derek Schueler taught us

The smile always came first.

When Derek Schueler entered a room, that infectious, ear-to-ear grin seemed to always precede him.

Friends and family say it could be mischievous at times, and definitely sly when seen by a hockey opponent on the ice, but most can agree that it was always a sign of genuine warmth.

For those members new to the University community, Derek died suddenly and tragically Aug. 18, leaving behind many people who have been left to wonder how the void of his smile can possibly be filled.

But that his passing should come at the very beginning of a new school year teaches us something important: despite the transformation in character many of us will undergo in four years, four years is almost laughably, tragically short.

A finance major, a member of the Sigma Phi Society and a good friend, Derek was that rare embodiment of a person who grasps fully the weight of the college experience. He was, as his friend Ainsley Robertson told us, Òthe sweetest, most selfless person I have ever met.Ó

When more than 800 people gathered in the Ira Allen chapel this past weekend to pay tribute to Derek, we were reminded how extraordinarily special being apart of a community like UVM is. The sadness was palpable, but in shared experience comes strength.

What struck us the most about SaturdayÕs ceremony was the hard truth in the statements made about the kind of person Derek was. As college students, we can all bond, if nothing else, about how far from perfect we are.

ÒRight now heÕs on a beach somewhere in a backwards hat and sunglasses making the most of paradise, just as he did here on earth,Ó said friend and senior Blake Ingram. ÒI am comforted knowing that when my time comes he will be there waiting for me with a beer, and I look forward to hanging around with my good friend Derek again some day.Ó

As we all launch into what will be our first, second, third or last year as an undergraduate, we remind you all to capitalize on the grand opportunity you have before you. We urge you to take a second glance at those around you, and try to understand the impossible beauty of the people you see every day.

And if that isnÕt clear to you yet, then the very least you can do is smile at them.