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The Drake family remembers Benjamin Backstrom

May 1, 2010
News Photo
The group gathers in a circle where a tree will be planted as a memorial to Backstrom.

Under a bright blue and sunshine-filled sky, more than 80 Drake
students, faculty and staff joined together to remember and honor the
memory of sophomore business major Benjamin Backstrom, who died earlier
this week.

The Drake group and Backstrom's family gathered at the Agora in
Drake's Helmick Commons, surrounded by a serene spring breeze and
peaceful sounds of a waterfall by the open-air pavilion.

Two Drake student musicians opened the ceremony with a version of
Kansas' "Dust in the Wind," one of Backstrom's favorite tunes.

Music was followed by comments and reflections about Backstrom of
Norwalk, Iowa, from Rev. Ted Lyddon Hatten of the Wesley House, several
close friends, Associate Professor of Sociology Nancy Berns and Drake
President David Maxwell.

Drake student Ginger Jon Jansen began the time for community reflection with a quote that Backstrom wrote about himself:

"I'm the guy who specializes in R&R -- Resilience and
Resourcefulness, as well as some rest and relaxation. But give me a
problem, and, I will give you five solutions, 'cause that's the way I
am."

Another close friend, Jenn Rinehart, shared "A Parable of Immortality" by Henry Van Dyke, and Berns, who encouraged the group to carry
Backstrom forward in their hearts with joy, shared her poem titled, "Oh, Joy."


News Photo
Backstrom's favorite hat was part of the ceremony.

President Maxwell read an excerpt from Fyodor Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov:"

"…And even if we are occupied with most important things, if we
attain to honor or fall into great misfortune -- still let us remember
how good it was once here, when we were all together, united by a good
and kind feeling..."

Following the program, the group gathered in a circle around
Backstrom's favorite hat and a tree that will later be planted on the
south side of Goodwin-Kirk Residence Hall near University Avenue. The
Student Senate will arrange for the tree to be planted and display a
plaque at this site as a memorial to Backstrom.

Students have already held two candlelight vigils on campus to honor Backstrom's memory.

At Wednesday night's vigil, students read Bible verses, lit
candles, joined in prayers and shared memories of Backstrom in the
ballroom of Morehouse Residence Hall.

At the first vigil on Tuesday night, students lit candles, drew
pictures and wrote remembrances in chalk on the sidewalks in front of
Olmsted Center. Sophomore James "Quint" Hall spent hours creating a
detailed portrait of Backstrom, signing the work with these words: "I
just miss my friend. Q."

A full obituary is posted on the Iles Funeral Home Web site and the Drake memorial site is available at http://www.drake.edu/memorial/.