Lynn University Remembrance Plaza officially dedicated

Honorary and posthumous degrees presented to family members
Lynn University Remembrance Plaza officially dedicated

Published Mar. 16, 2012

A place of contemplation, hope and inspiration … a continuous, cascading waterfall … a free-flowing water curtain … an ever changing spectrum of color … prisms shimmering with light … trees blooming with the color of friendship … a wall of magnificent, iridescent imported granite … an overlook reaching out into the lake … a small piece of debris of the Hotel Montana embedded in the ground … plaques that tell the story … a destination of remembrance.

These elements of light, water, stone and trees have come together in the heart of campus to form a special place of remembrance and reflection – the Lynn University Remembrance Plaza, a memorial designed to honor the legacies of the four students and two faculty members who died in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti while performing community service.

Not long after the tragedy planning began for a fitting tribute to those we lost, and it took 296 days to make the vision a reality. The Remembrance Plaza was unveiled today, March 16, in a moving dedication ceremony culminating in the presentation of honorary and posthumous degrees to the families of those we lost.

The ceremony

CeremonyUnder a clear blue sky and with all the beautiful elements of the Remembrance Plaza serving as a magnificent backdrop, the outdoor ceremony began with a procession of Lynn University officials, board of trustees and faculty members in full academic regalia. Dimensional Harmony, a nationally-recognized choir from Boynton Beach Community High School, sang “America the Beautiful.”

President Kevin M. Ross welcomed the more than 1,000 visitors who gathered on the lawn adjacent to Perper Plaza.

“Today we not only recognize the academic accomplishments of these six outstanding individuals, but also celebrate their personal accomplishments as well,” President Ross said. “The Journey of Hope and each of its members will forever be an important part of the Lynn story, and today we ensure that their lives and legacies are never forgotten.”

The degrees

Vice President for Academic Affairs Gregg Cox read proclamations to present the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa degrees to the families of Dr. Richard Bruno, former assistant professor in the College of Liberal Education, and Dr. Patrick Hartwick, former dean of the Ross College of Education.

Academic degrees were then conferred on the four students, with their families accepting:

  • Stephanie Crispinelli, Bachelor of Arts, Human Services, College of Liberal Education
  • Britney Gengel, Bachelor of Arts, Communication, Media and Politics, Lynn College of International Communication
  • Christine Gianacaci, Bachelor of Arts, Communication, Lynn College of International Communication
  • Courtney Hayes, Bachelor of Science, Biology, College of Liberal Education

Speaking from the heart

DegreesMembers of the families then gave their remarks. Speaking on behalf of the Bruno family and her own, Allie Hartwick, daughter of Patrick Hartwick, said, “Lynn University will always hold a special place in my heart. It was here that my father and Dr. Bruno made their greatest friends and accomplishments and were given their greatest opportunities. They exhibited teamwork and camaraderie in the most trying times and were able to make a true difference in life. I hope this memorial will inspire everyone to make a real change in the world, and to keep the reflection of good and the desire to help those in need strongly in mind.”

The mothers of each student shared heartwarming, emotional and even humorous remembrances of their daughters—Britney, Courtney, Stephanie and Christine. 

“Brit was an advocate for the underdog, a voice for those who didn’t have one,” said Cheryl Ann Gengel. “She had blue eyes like the beautiful stone in this plaza, and as the prisms shine on, so will her spirit.”

“Courtney was an angel among us,” said Angie Hayes. “She loved her Facebook, and before leaving for Haiti, she wrote, 'It’s 32 degrees in Boca; I’m off to sunny Haiti to save the world.'"

Lin Crispinelli recalled daughter Stephanie as determined “to change the world, one child at a time. … She lives on with every life she has touched.”

Jean Gianacaci spoke of her daughter’s beautiful singing voice and sharp wit. “We thank God every day for Lynn, who helped her understand the possibilities were endless. Here, she blossomed and came into her own.”

She added, “Our four families came together as strangers, but we are now a family, stronger than ever. Four beautiful women turned tragedy into triumph.”

The next words came from one of Haiti’s own, Lynn sophomore Gwendoline Darguste, whose school, Quisqueya University, was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. Darguste was awarded the Briggs Family Haitian Scholarship.

“Coming to Lynn has been the most heartwarming experience,” Darguste said. “My fellow students and I share a connection because we’re all part of the Lynn University family. This plaza will serve as a daily reminder for us to live lives of service and carry on the legacy.

The dedication

FacultyPresident Ross then officially dedicated the Lynn University Remembrance Plaza as “a memorial where [the students’ and faculty members’] spirits and their stories will always remain alive right here at the heart of our campus.”

Following a closing prayer, faculty members lined a pathway through which family members were the first to enter the Remembrance Plaza.

The dedication of the Remembrance Plaza and the conferring of degrees is the completion of a journey that began long ago, bringing the six we lost home to the love and compassion Lynn will always feel in remembering its family members.

Yet, as President Ross noted, the Lynn community is just beginning its own journey. “We hope that in our moments of pain, which will never fully go away, we may find peace and comfort in this sacred place we dedicate today.”

Remembrance Plaza by the numbers

  • 296 - days to build
  • 6 - prisms, steps,Tababeuia trees and benches (representing the 6 lost  in the earthquake)
  • 4,000 - feet of Labradorite Blue Australe granite
  • 338 - cubic yards of concrete
  • 78,619 - pounds of rebar and misc. metals
  • $1,725,640 - total cost 
  • $1,035,705 - total raised*

*This includes the granite donated by Marble of the World. Fundraising continues to meet the final costs and to endow the project for its care and maintenance into the future.

  • 637 - number of donors who made gifts