Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Student Presumed Dead in South Africa


Terrance Davis has been an active member of Georgetown’s gospel choir.

UPDATED: Tuesday, Sept. 3, 1:45 p.m.

Terrance Davis (COL ’10), who was spending his fall semester abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, was swept into the ocean amid stormy conditions Monday morning and is presumed drowned by South Africa’s sea rescue service.

The 20-year-old was walking along a rocky beach in Harkerville, located approximately 275 miles east of Cape Town, on Monday morning when a “freak wave” dragged him into the water, said Ray Farnham, commander of the Plettenberg Bay Station of the National Sea Rescue Institute, early this morning. The incident was reported to authorities at 11:45 a.m. local time.

Davis was on a one-week vacation with fellow Georgetown student Ellie Gunderson (COL ’10) when the incident occurred.

Farnham said that upon learning of the accident, search and rescue crews canvassed the area with two helicopters and 10 land crews until dark with no results. He said the search would begin again at 10 or 11 a.m., local time, as soon as the tide subsided. The water had been particularly ferocious of late, he added, with waves reaching as high as 30 feet.

Farnham said Friday morning that the seas were especially rough on and that the search has been put on hold until late Saturday or Sunday.

“We have searched every single day since he disappeared,” he said. “We will continue the formal search until Monday, and will continue an unofficial search until we find something.”

The U.S. Consulate in Cape Town said early this morning that it was only permitted to release updates to Davis’ parents. Reached yesterday evening, Davis’ mother, Trala Branch, and grandmother declined to comment.

Lara Hoffenberg, a representative from the University of Cape Town, said the school would provide trauma counseling to each of the other 10 Georgetown students in the program.

Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson said that the Office of International Programs will also provided counseling for Georgetown students studying abroad in Cape Town and at other study abroad programs around the world.

He also added that Counseling and Psychiatric Services counselors are available for students on campus.

“Counseling staff, chaplains in residence and residence life staff are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to students in need of personal support,” Olson said.

A resident of Osceola, Ark., Davis graduated from Osceola Senior High School and is majoring in sociology and theatre and performance art studies.

Before going abroad, Davis served as director of publicity for The Fire This Time, Black Ensemble Theatre and Black Student Alliance. He was also actively involved in the GU Gospel Choir, a peer mentorship program, NAACP, Movements of Grace and Black Movements Dance Theatre, a joint program between Georgetown and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He began his semester in Cape Town in mid-July after working as an intern for Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) in his Washington, D.C. office.

“You will never find somebody with his enthusiasm in this world,” said Hector Cendejas-Vigliotti (COL ’10). “I never saw him sad or down.”

Over 350 students, faculty and staff crowded into St. William’s Chapel just after 6:30 p.m. yesterday for a prayer service, filling the chapel to capacity and leaving many to stand in the foyer of Copley Hall.

Kathy Bellows, director of the Office of International Programs, said that she had spoken with his family and that they were happy the Georgetown community had come together.

Reverend Constance Wheeler, Protestant chaplaincy director, opened the service.

“We have come today on a very hopeful day,” she said. “We are not here to memorialize, just to pray for hope.”

Joined by several members of campus ministry, students prayed for Davis’ safe homecoming.

Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., director of campus ministry, led the congregation in Psalm 23.

“We are all one tonight,” he said. “Christian, Jewish, Muslim, black, white and everything in between, we are all one tonight, and we are here together to pray for Terrance.”

The members of Georgetown’s Gospel Choir paid tribute to Davis, their director last year, with three hymns, beginning with “I Need You to Survive.” REL, the a cappella groups Davis founded, also performed.

“Whatever happens, Terrance is all right.” Dennis Williams, director and associate dean of students, said. “It’s up to us to live up to what he gave us.”

While the service began with a notably somber tone, with many students crying and holding each other, it ended with friends sharing stories and speaking about Davis’ vibrant energy.

“This room is too quiet for the Terrance I know,” one student shouted, causing the room to burst into applause.

“The best word I can think of to describe Terrance is flamboyant,” another student said at the service. “Only because flamboyant means burning brightly, and that was Terrance did – he filled you with warmth and cheer.”

any described his impassioned commitment to his Christian faith.

Wheeler said she became exhausted watching him direct the choir with such enthusiasm. “I offered to pay him something for his work, but he said, `I do it for the Lord, and the Lord is the only payment I will take,'” she said.

“Terrance brought me closer to God, helped me open up and taught me that life is too short to hold anger or grudges,” Akuoma Nwadike (COL ’11) said in an e-mail. “So young, yet so wise, he made me feel like I could do anything. All you had to do was smile, trust, pray and face the challenge head-on.”

One thing fondly recalled at the ceremony was Davis’ signature hug.

“It didn’t matter if you were a teacher or a student or whatever – he was giving you a hug,” one student said.

“He would come running down the hall and give me a hug and knock me over every time I saw him, and once I asked him why he was also hugging people, and he told me, `I have to remind you of my love for you,'” another remembered.

Throughout the afternoon, Davis’ friends left messages on his Facebook profile offering kind words and prayers for his safety.

Davis’ friends say they were moved by the service and continue to pray for his safe return.

“When I got there, there were a lot of people there, and I was happy to see that there were so many people that had the experience of knowing Terrance,” said Paul Notice (SFS ’09). “It’s really been a blessing to have him in my life.”

Two additional prayer services will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 3. The first prayer service will be at 4 p.m. in St. William’s Chapel, with a second service at 7:30 p.m. on Copley Lawn.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Terrance, his family and everyone in our community during this difficult time,” said Olson.

Hoya Staff Writers Andrew Dwulet and Victoria Fosdal contributed to this report.


After Tragedy, Uniting for Support September 5, 2008

Body Found at Sea May Be Davis’ September 8, 2008

A Student Who Shone, A Man Who Loved September 12, 2008

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