'Remember the love and connection': Class of 2019 mourns the loss of classmate
In her remarks to the Class of 2019 before Commencement got underway Friday, President Connie Ledoux Book encouraged students to remember the power of love as they grieve for their classmate.
In a special gathering in Alumni Gym Friday morning before the start of Commencement, the Class of 2019 remembered and grieved for Nicholas Kavouklis, a classmate who passed away unexpectedly on the eve of graduation.
Kavouklis was a beloved member of the Class of 2019 who had a deep impact on those who knew and loved him. A native of Tampa, Florida, he was an exercise science major, a longsnapper on the Elon football team and a two-time CAA Academic All-Conference honoree.
News of his death on Thursday devastated the university community, with teammates, friends, coaches, faculty and staff gathering on Thursday night in Rhodes Stadium to remember him and his life.
With the Class of 2019 together in Alumni Gym and commencement preparing to begin, President Connie Ledoux Book reminded the Elon seniors of their first full day on campus nearly four years ago, when they were told by then-President Leo M. Lambert at New Student Convocation that they had 1,361 days til graduation.
"And here it is," Book said. "But today has arrived very differently than we planned because yesterday we lost your classmate, Nicholas Kavouklis. And that's not the way it's supposed to go. It's not supposed to be that way."
Book asked the more than 1,400 students to stand and hold the hand of those beside them, including linking hands from row to row. "No matter what life hands us, no matter all those moments — and there will be plenty of times when things don't go our way, not the way we had planned, and life hands us what we think we can't handle."
During those times, Book said, think back to this moment, with the Class of 2019 holding hands and knowing they are not alone. "Your life is precious, and the love that we have for each other, that love is infinite. As my daughter says, that's a bucket that never gets full.
"When you face tough times ahead, remember the power of love in this room," Book said.