Update on Williams-Exeter students

To the Williams Community,

I can now update some of you and inform others about the horrible accident Sunday that has brought such grief to the Williams community. We are shocked by this sudden turn of events and need to support each other, especially those most directly involved.

Here’s what we know.

Seven of our students at the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford University (WEPO), along with two Oxford students, had organized a weekend hiking trip near the town of Frutigen in the Swiss Alps.

While walking yesterday, they were hit by an avalanche of snow, ice, and rocks. Henry Lo ’11 was swept to his death, and Amy Nolan ’11 suffered a blow to her head. Swiss rescuers responded quickly, retrieving Henry’s body and taking Amy by helicopter to a hospital in Bern. We’re told that she never lost consciousness. She was operated on yesterday, and the student who was allowed to visit her today reports that she was talking and smiling. Her parents, Cathy and Jim Nolan, professor of sociology, are now there with her.

None of the other hikers was injured. Swiss authorities activated an English-speaking response team to support them and take them to Bern, where U.S. Consulate officials were engaged.

The students have now arrived back at the Williams complex in Oxford, where they and the other Programme students are being tended to by Resident Director Tom Kohut and members of Exeter College, including the Rector, Dean, and Chaplain. The University is still in term, which ends later this month.

At this profoundly sad moment our hearts are first with Henry’s family for their sudden and devastating loss. As a parent, I can’t imagine the effect of such an occurrence. Henry was a math and religion major from Franklin Square, N.Y. His fellow students in the Programme wrote this moving tribute to him:

Henry, you transcended social boundaries – you went out of your way to show an interest in all of our lives. It was this selflessness and generosity that will stay with us. You saw our quirks and you loved us for them, just as we loved you for yours. We will remember you for so many things from your escapades on football crew dates, your WEPO Iron Chef entry of chocolate covered bacon, listening to Yeasayer and Chiddy Bang late at night, to Ice-ing and, most of all, your fantastic meals.

You made the most of your time here at Oxford: football, kickboxing, working out, wine-tasting, truly loving your academic work, not to mention all your socializing. This list only scratches the surface. To borrow some of your own words, you were not a gamer, you were a competitor. You made such a huge impression on all of us in less than a year – we all wish we could spend more time with you, get to know you even better. We can’t believe you’ve been taken from us.

As we write this, all the memories that come up make it clear how much you meant to all of us here at WEPO. You will live long in our memories.

In Memoriam,
WEPO 09-10

No plans have yet been set for any services.
Our thoughts are also with the Nolan family, including Amy’s brother David ’13, who are having to cope with such an unsettling development.

We all of us need also to support the other students on the trip, which became traumatic for them, and of everyone in the Programme, since all have been emotionally affected.

The students are being wonderfully caring of each other, as we would expect in such a community, and their families also have reached out to provide mutual support. But it will take time for all of us to recover, which we should be sure to help each other do.

Meanwhile, our deep thanks go to the many people, on both continents, who’ve been involved in the response.

Adam Falk