Freshman mathematics major Sarah Sutherland was known as an “incredibly selfless” student at the College, “full of love for God and friends.” In what has become a campus tragedy, however, Sutherland passed away near her Scotch Plains home on Monday, Oct. 6.
Sutherland, who sometimes went by Sara, quickly became an active member of the campus community: She was in the math club, Black Student Union, New Jersey Christian Fellowship and the Leadership Development Program, along with being an involved member of her freshman floor.
“She was always a positive, friendly person, (and) she was always fun to be around,” said freshman nursing major Hannah Rose, one of Sutherland’s floormates. “We would go out together — she always made me laugh. She was a big addition to our floor, (and) she was very positive and (outgoing).”
Sutherland died by suicide on Monday, Oct. 6., according to an email sent to College faculty, staff and students by President R. Barbara Gitenstein on Thursday, Oct. 9.
“This tragic incident affects our campus, and we all feel a sense of loss at this time,” President R. Barbara Gitenstein wrote. “Please join me in keeping Sarah, her family, and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
A mycentraljersey.com article published on Thursday, Oct. 9, cited police saying the 18-year-old had jumped off an overpass and into a creek, which was several hundred feet from the restaurant where she had worked. Sutherland later died at University Hospital in Newark.
Sutherland had been a warm, inclusive student who liked to make sure nobody felt left out, according to freshman psychology major Lena Chickezie.
“If you knew her, you were lucky,” Chikezie said during a prayer vigil the New Jersey Christian Fellowship held for Sutherland on Wednesday, Oct. 15, which honored Sutherland.
The vigil highlighted the psychological options available to all College students in need of any assistance, including CAPS in 107 Eickhoff Hall, and services were made available to those who knew Sutherland.
“I think that everyone has been so great with us, talking about counseling and psychological services,” Rose said. “I think that the school does as much as they can, they make us very aware of the services available to us.”
Sutherland’s floor was heavily impacted by the loss of their friend and came together to mourn her after their community advisors and the school counseling services told them the news.
“(Our floor is) pretty close … We all went to dinner the night (they told us the news), it was almost 40 of us that went to Eick that night, and it was just nice to be together,” Rose said. “We have a really close floor, which makes it hard to lose someone — but it’s also nice that we all have each other, we’re going through the same thing. If I get upset, I can just go to anyone in the hall and we’re all close. We all knew her. We’re all upset about it.”
Sutherland’s family held a memorial service for her on Friday, Oct. 10, with a prayer service on Saturday, Oct. 11.