As the entire Georgetown community awaits word on the fate of Terrance Davis (COL ’10), who was carried out to sea by a “freak wave” on the southern shore of South Africa early Monday morning and is now presumed drowned, a team of university administrators has been working behind the scenes to coordinate the university’s support and response.
The university was first informed only hours after the incident that Davis, who was studying abroad for the fall semester in Cape Town, South Africa, had gone missing.
According to Lara Hoffenberg, a manager at the International Academic Programmes Office at the University of Cape Town, rescue missions are still underway.
Hoffenberg said all of the 10 Georgetown students in the program, who were traveling throughout the country for a one-week recess, have returned to the university and have attended trauma counseling sessions.
Katherine Bellows, executive director of the Office of International Programs, said that her office has been in touch with all students studying abroad – not just those in South Africa – via e-mail to offer support. She said that OIP is working closely with the Council on International Education Exchange, the group that organizes and administers several of the Georgetown study-abroad programs, including the one to South Africa, to support the students currently in Cape Town.
CIEE sent several representatives to Cape Town since the incident, Bellows said.
“CIEE is our eyes and ears on the ground,” she said. “These guys have been awesome, truly. A couple flew up to the actual site and spent a lot of time with our other student [Ellie Gunderson (COL’ 10)]. They flew back with her to Cape Town, so they’ve been with her all this time. It’s really been an amazing effort.”
University of Cape Town Vice-Chancellor Max Price extended his condolences and offered his support to the family and the university in a statement issued Tuesday.
“This is a tragic and sad incident and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the student,” he said. “We are working closely with the Council on International Educational Exchange, the American Consulate and the National Sea Rescue Institute on this matter.”
Back on Georgetown’s campus, extensive efforts have been launched by university administrators to lend support to the friends and classmates of Davis. Philip Meilman, director of Counseling and Psychiatric Services, said a core group of 12 administrators, including representatives from CAPS, Campus Ministry, the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, the Office of International Programs, the Georgetown College Dean’s Office and [Residence Life], are meeting regularly to coordinate the university’s response.
“These discussions have been ongoing this week, and the group plans to continue to meet as information becomes available and as the situation warrants,” Meilman said.
Reverend Constance Wheeler, the Protestant chaplaincy director, held a prayer service on Monday afternoon in St. William’s Chapel, where over 350 students, faculty and administrators filled the seats and aisles and spilled over to the Copley Hall foyer.
The university held two additional prayer services for students on Wednesday, including a larger, university-wide event, which was attended by University President John J. DeGioia, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and several other administrators and members of campus ministry.
Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., executive director of campus ministry, said Wheeler has taken the lead in organizing prayer services and events for students over the last few days.
“Rev. Wheeler has been in touch with Terrance’s family several times a day,” O’Brien said. “We’re very sensitive to the family’s needs.”
Wheeler traveled to Arkansas early Thursday morning, where she plans to remain with Davis’ mother and grandmother until Saturday evening.
O’Brien added that university administrators have been seeking out those students who were closest to Davis and offering any support they can.
“We are paying particular attention to the groups that Terrance was actively involved in,” he said. “We’re trying to care for those members of the community that knew Terrance best.”
While O’Brien said the university had not planned any further services for Davis at this time, he would be prayed for at this weekend’s liturgies.
O’Brien said that university chaplains have been particularly active in working with individual students.
“The Chaplains in Residence have made themselves available,” he said, “and there’ve been a lot of people coming just to talk.”
eilman said CAPS is making a university psychologist available for students who would like the support.
“CAPS is providing direct counseling services to students and consulting with other offices who are involved in providing support,” he said. “And one of our psychologists, Dr. John Wright, has been providing community support by increasing his presence at CMEA, the Black House and the campus at large.”
Several students have thus far reached out to CAPS, and, according to Meilman, the staff has been working hard to make itself available.
“A number of students have called requesting services at CAPS because of this. We are accommodating them on a same-day basis,” he said. “Terrance has such a large circle of friends that we want to be sure we don’t overlook anyone.”
-Hoya Staff Writers Andrew Dwulet and Connie Parham contributed to this report.
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