Claremont McKenna College mourns loss of two students with candlelit vigil

More than 500 students attended a vigil at Claremont McKenna College’s Butler Plaza Feb. 27 in remembrance of Jeremy Peterson and Eric Cramer. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

More than 500 people packed Butler Plaza outside Claremont McKenna College’s Bauer Center Wednesday night for a candlelit vigil to honor the lives of the two students who recently died at CMC.

Jeremy Peterson, who entered CMC with the class of 2018, was found dead in his dorm room in Phillips Hall Feb. 19. He was 22 and from Princeton, New Jersey. His cause of death has not been determined.

Eric Cramer also entered CMC with the class of 2018 and was found dead in his dorm room in Beckett Hall a week later, on Feb. 26. He was also 22 and from San Diego. He died by suicide, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.

The emotional vigil began with a reflection on grieving and loss from Jeff Liou, the 5Cs’ Protestant chaplain. After the crowd of mostly CMC students lit their candles in silence, CMC President Hiram Chodosh spoke fondly about both Peterson and Cramer.

Sasha Houy CM ’19 (left) and CMC President Hiram Chodosh hold candles at the vigil Feb. 27. (Chloe Ortiz • The Student Life)

“Both shared the gift of teaching their parents many things and stretching them way outside their comfort zones of travel, and books, and music and movies,” he said.

In his speech, Chodosh called Peterson a “dreamer” and commended his ability to convince his dad to go high-altitude skydiving with him.

He described Cramer as a scientist who “found opportunities in simple places,” citing Cramer’s college essay about the many things one can do on a bench, from meeting someone, to getting to know someone, to getting to know oneself.

“I won’t sit on a bench without thinking about Eric’s three directives: know someone new, know someone better, know yourself better,” he said.

Chodosh told the crowd that some community members might not know how to feel in response to the deaths.

“What’s important to know is that we feel, that we know how to feel, and to allow ourselves the fullest range of emotion,” he said.

Following Chodosh’s speech, students, staff and faculty walked in silence across campus to the Athenaeum, where Peterson’s father, girlfriend and others spoke to a crowded room.

Jason Peterson CM ’85, Jeremy’s dad, said his son gave him many gifts, including bringing adventure to his life.

Jason said he was initially reluctant to go skydiving with Jeremy, but was ultimately convinced to go, and was “so glad I did.

“He had me do so many things that I might not have done otherwise,” Jason said, encouraging students to think about all the positive things both Jeremy and Cramer had done.

Madeline McCluskey SC ’21, Jeremy’s girlfriend, described him as “such an amazing person” who always tried to make her feel better when she was upset.

“Jeremy wouldn’t want us to be sad,” she said.

Ibrahim Elhari CM ’21 said despite only knowing Cramer briefly, Cramer was always able to make his day better. Elhari encouraged everyone to “just be there for each other. Even if it’s just the little things, they add up.”

Students listen to Chodosh speak at the vigil, including Miranda Klinck PZ ’20 (front). (Chloe Ortiz • The Student Life)

For students across the 5Cs, Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services is located in the Tranquada Student Services Center, while an on-call therapist is reachable 24/7 for after-hours support at 909-621-8202. Staff and faculty can call the 24/7 Employee Assistance Program number at 800-234-5465.

ASCMC canceled a Thursday party and Wedding Party, which was scheduled for Saturday night, ASCMC told students in an email. All students who bought Wedding Party tickets will be refunded.

“It is our belief that in this time of grieving it would be inappropriate to host a major event in the center of campus that would take up space, physically, emotionally and mentally, from individuals in our community that need it,” the email said.

ASCMC will instead host an event in Marks Lounge Thursday from 8 to 11 p.m. with board games, coloring supplies and a free food truck, and a community gathering with the Dean of Students staff, the Resident Adviser team and the College Programming Board in the Athenaeum Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m.

This article was updated Feb. 28 at 2:09 p.m. to add quotes from Claremont McKenna College President Hiram Chodosh.

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