On Tuesday, Albion College held a vigil at 7:30 p.m. in Goodrich Chapel to remember and celebrate the life of Zachary Winston.
At this time, the Dow Recreation Center was closed and various classes were cancelled, allowing all students to pay their respects and honor Winston’s legacy.
Alongside leaders of various campus organizations and the men’s basketball team, the vigil was led by Albion’s Chaplain, Reverend Donald Phillips.
“Our student leaders along with faculty, staff, and administrators want to express that we are One Albion,” stated Leroy Wright, the vice president for student development and dean of students, in an email sent out to the campus community. “As a community, we are not alone and there are people in our community that care about our welfare and well-being. While we use this time to grieve and to reflect on our time with Zachary, this is also a time to support each others’ struggle to get through the toughness of life.”
As people arrived for the vigil, tables lined with paper and pens stood in the chapel’s atrium, and those who attended were encouraged to write condolences and memories of Winston. The notes piled high in baskets placed at the center of each table.
Students, faculty members, staff, alumni and community members came together to fill both the lower and upper levels of Goodrich Chapel. Soft piano music played as the basketball team filed in through the doors of the chapel, taking a seat together at the front of the room.
Phillips began the vigil with an introductory prayer, welcoming the community into the chapel and thanking everyone for coming to honor Winston. Following the prayer, Phillips detailed the origin of the word vigil, shedding light on what the word truly means. He explained that “vigil” is derived from the Latin word “vigilia,” meaning watchfulness.
“Let us be watchful. Let us be vigilant,” said Phillips. “Let us remember that there are lives around us that need to see the laughter and joy that Zach brought to Albion.”
Phillips then turned the time of remembrance to students. Remarks by Student Senate President Jim Takeshita, alongside Student Senate Vice President Courtney Lamrouex, opened the conversation led by the student body.
“The loss of one student is a loss for the entire student body. Seeing the campus come together in this moment of hurt and love is a reminder of how many lives Zach touched. It’s a reminder of the love and compassion we have not only for Zach, but for each other,” said Takeshita. “Here is our strength in Goodrich Chapel. We are one Albion.”
Trevaleyus Harris, president of the Black Student Alliance (BSA), spoke next.
“Whether we knew him or not, he was still a person, and all lives deserve to be lived,” said Harris.
Kurt Jolly represented the voice of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC), detailing insights to the discussion SAAC had in its meeting on Sunday night following the tragedy. Jolly called Winston what SAAC refers to as a “fixer,” meaning someone who is there for others, striving to help them in any way possible.
“Please be there for each other the way Zach was for us,” said Jolly. “Be there for one another in the next hour, day, month, year. It doesn’t matter. Just be there.”
Daria Bloomfield, Taj Wallace and Madeline Thomas, who worked with Zach this past summer as tour guides, were the next to speak.
“Within our first day, he captured me with his warmth,” said Bloomfield. “I laughed more that day than I did in the past month.”
Bloomfield shared stories about Winston from over the summer, reminiscing on how he took hold of the tour guide program not just as a job, but as a passion. He told prospective students not just where buildings were located but about how they could find love and community in every corner of Albion, making it feel like a second home.
“I hope we have more kids like Zach come through our program and through our school. Zach has this irresistible light I wish I could emulate,” said Bloomfield. “I hope we can all carry on his light and his love.”
Jamezell Davis Jr. and Wills Lee spoke on behalf of the men’s basketball team.
“He impacted so many lives so effortlessly,” said Davis. “He had an amazing gift of instilling confidence in other people.”
Lee, one of Winston’s suitemates, shared personal stories that brought Winston’s light into the heavy room. Members of the Albion community laughed in remembrance of Winston’s bright smile, infectious energy, and selfless heart.
“He always had the big Smoothie smile that rubs off on anyone. He could always turn your worst day to the best day with that smile,” said Lee. “Please remember Zach’s life as an example of how we should live our lives.”
Lee went on to explain the concept of “luv gang,” something Winston came up with to describe his relationship with brothers Cassius and Khy.
“Zach came up with a saying called ‘luv gang,’” said Lee. “It’s an acronym: Laughter. Unification. Value. Genuine. Affection. Noble. Giving.”
Following Lee’s lead, people in the room tapped two fingers on their left wrists, pointed up to the sky, to Winston, and said, “Luv gang.”
“Grief has a negative connotation, and we’re approaching this positively. We’re replacing grief with good,” said Davis. “We won’t get through this alone, so let’s get through it together.”
After Davis and Lee, Phillips took the stage once more to close the vigil with a few lingering thoughts, urging anyone who attended to share in being a part of the luv gang by writing condolences and notes to Zach.
Phillips reminisced on a seminar he once attended where the director asked him each morning, “How you be?” He first joked about knowing that the director had a college degree and therefore should know that his grammar was incorrect. But he then went on to explain that the question is much deeper than a matter of incorrect grammar.
“You are not a doing, you are a being. We are not just what we do. Zach showed that he wasn’t a doing as far as a basketball player or a tour guide. He was a being full of laughter and full of light,” said Phillips. “Leave here tonight thinking not what you’re going to do, but who you’re going to be.”
Phillips concluded by reminding the community to keep each other strong through both the “tears and laughter” in the days ahead.
Counseling services was available to all students following the service.
As we continue to mourn the loss of Zach, our brother and friend, Counseling Services, located at 616 Michigan Ave., is available Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Campus Safety can also be contacted 24/7 at (517) 629-1234. If students need support outside of normal counseling hours, they should ask to be connected to the counselor on-call.
“As a campus, we have provided opportunities for students, faculty and staff to receive counseling and support in the challenging days ahead,” said Albion College President Mauri Ditzler in his official statement following the tragic incident. “We want all students to know they are not alone.”
If you or anyone you know is struggling, there are resources available to aid you in any way they can. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1(800) 273-8255 (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org)
- Mental Health Association in Michigan: (248) 647-1711
- Summit Point 24 Hour Crisis: 1(800) 632-5449
- Summit Point Youth Mobile Crisis Team: (269) 441-5945
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 74174