OLEAN ó Tyler Davis, a sophomore history major at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, was found dead near the west entrance to campus on Nov. 24. Davis was last seen walking toward campus shortly after midnight on Friday, Nov. 22, after attending a party at 84 East Union St. in Allegany. Cattaraugus County police said that an official cause of death has not been released, pending the results of a toxicology report, but they suspect no foul play. Davis was not dressed for the weather, according to Sheriff Timothy Whitcomb, which may have contributed to his death.
On Nov. 25, I gave a reading at St. Bonaventure, my undergraduate alma mater. While I only spent a few hours on campus and didnít get a chance to speak to any students about it directly, a professor at the school (who is also a friend of mine) said that his sorrow over Davisí death was tempered by knowing what he had been doing before his death, and by the possibility that underage drinking was involved.
ďI canít help but hope students look at this and think about their own actions,Ē he said.
As for me, Iím uncomfortable using a dead child as a lesson. It makes me uneasy to hold up this student, who made one mistake and paid the ultimate price, as a warning to all students, to all people.
On Davisí Facebook page, his girlfriend Kathleen Bateman wrote, ďHe had such an amazing group of friends and Iím so indescribably happy he knows he is loved. Thank you for giving him such an amazing and happy time in his life.Ē
Another friend, Charlie Anone, wrote, ďIt feels like it was just yesterday Tyler and I were playing with blocks in kindergarten and now heís gone. Words can not describe the impact Tyler left on my life and how badly I wish I could see you, one more time. He was my first friend and he will never be forgotten.Ē
Davis liked The Simpsons, Anchorman and Kanye West. He was a golfer and a class clown. He was an average college kid, by all accounts.
What this kid isnít is a lesson in a textbook. Heís a person who never made it to his dorm, on a bitterly cold night, who maybe forgot to wear a jacket because he didnít think he had far to go. Heís a son whose place wonít get set for Thanksgiving dinner, whose stocking will go empty, in just a few weeks. Heís a friend who wonít crack a joke at the next party. He may have been a lot of things, but heís not a poster child for bad decisions.
We all make mistakes. Most of us donít die from them.
When I was a college student, Iím sure I did things I shouldnít have done. I probably walked home alone, once or twice. St. Bonaventure is an idyllic-feeling place, and its silent, snow-covered paths can feel safer than they really are. I may have taken a shortcut through the woods and I definitely wasnít dressed for the weather, 99 percent of the time. Iím still not, as my gloveless hands covering a recent outdoor story can attest.
One report said that Davis had gotten into a fight, prior to leaving the party. So what? How many times did my girlfriends and I yell at each other over a boy, only to storm out and stew for a few hours? We always made up, the next morning. I had two male friends at SBU who were notorious for fighting, almost every weekend. One or the other would storm off, almost every time, just to reappear sheepishly at brunch the next day, to compare stories with his Friday-night enemy over eggs and bacon. None of us ever fathomed that we might not have that chance.
College is all about learning. About academic subjects, sure, but also about oneself. I learned a lot, during my time at SBU and the other schools Iíve attended, throughout my education. I learned how I liked to spend my weekends, rather than how peer pressure suggested I spend them.
I learned how to study for finals in a way that worked for me. I learned what I liked to eat, when mom and dad werenít looking over my shoulder, and why the salad bar was a better choice than the pasta bar, sometimes.
But most importantly, I learned how independent I could be, but also how much I depended on my friends and family. Davis was right at the beginning of learning all of those things and tragically, one misstep cost him everything. Letís learn from our own experiences and look back on parts of them that may have been similar to his. But letís not parody a student who was so much more than one midnight walk home.
I think we need to mourn this young man, and send our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and the St. Bonaventure community. I think we need to take a moment, during our holiday weekends, to remember a family whose life wonít ever be the same. Letís all have a safe, thankful holiday.