Character is revealed during times of success and times of tragedy. Texas A&M University-Commerce, and specifically the Athletics Department, showed its character last week when two student-athletes were tragically killed in a car accident.
As the terrible news came in that students Devin Oliver and Aubree Butts were killed in a car crash the evening of June 3, it took a while for it to register. I didn’t know either of the young women personally, but our time at A&M-Commerce overlapped and I had watched them many times while covering games for, at first, the East Texan and later the Herald-Banner.
I was struck by the suddenness and finality of the news. A former sports information director and I texted back and forth, reflecting on the huge loss and our positive memories of these two wonderful young women.
It’s always difficult to maintain objectivity when covering events like the candlelight vigil. Wednesday night I felt far more like a Lion who had lost a member of the community I was honored to be a part of for four years at the university and I still maintain a relationship with as an alumnus. I left the vigil saddened, but encouraged that the A&M-Commerce community came together in such a united and respectful way. I left feeling that we Lions are truly blessed, even in the face of tragedy.
The Lions are blessed to have strong leadership that truly cares about its student-athletes, that emphasizes education and character development over wins and losses. People like athletic director Ryan Ivey, who is a powerful force when effecting change but is also compassionate and always values input from students.
A&M-Commerce is blessed to have caring faculty members like Dr. Lavelle Hendricks, who despite working in another department has invested his free time and effort in supporting A&M-Commerce student-athletes both on and off the court. His extensive religious and professional experience uniquely equip him to have a positive influence in the lives of countless students.
And the Lions are blessed to have former faculty members, like former women’s basketball coach Nicole Anderson, who recruited and coached Devin and Aubree and provided much needed comfort to the family members and friends who were obviously hurting at the candlelight vigil.
I was also impressed with the amount of A&M-Commerce students and faculty who attended and the reverence with which they treated the ceremony. They truly did a great job of remembering and celebrating the lives of those we lost.
So as we move forward as a community, let us carry ourselves with dignity and treat others with respect and kindness, remembering who we represent at Lions.
Slinkard is the editor of the Commerce Journal.