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Loss in Community: Engineering student remembered as selfless and high performing

By Anthony Garcia
News Editor 

Senior mechanical engineering major Justin ”JJ” Cunningham passed away in his on-campus residence on the afternoon of March 4. According to President Foster, the cause of death has not been determined and the College suspects no foul play at this time. 

“While all losses are difficult, this one is particularly challenging and painful given the separation we are feeling as a result of the pandemic,” Foster wrote in a campus-wide email. “It is especially important that we support each other, so please check in with those around you.”

After students’ death Foster tells the community to check on each other (Cunningham wearing grey in center, engineering.tcnj.edu).

Weeks from his scheduled graduation in May, JJ’s death is now under investigation. JJ will be remembered by friends, family, and faculty as a selfless and standout student who had a “great deal of potential” according to Foster.

Senior mechanical engineering major Alé Cruz remembers working on assignments with Cunningham, saying, “Whenever I didn’t understand something from a class, he was always willing to explain it so that I could also do well.” 

“In the past days as I’ve reflected on our moments together, not a negative memory comes to mind. When remembering JJ, I think of his silly jokes, positivity, and selflessness. Our community was better because of him.” 

Foster ended the email by providing the contact information of the College’s Mental Health Services and calling for the community to join her in keeping JJ and the Cunningham family in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. 

There will be opportunities for students to meet and garner support from Mental Health Services while the community deals with this loss together, according to Director of Mental Health Services Mark Forest. Three online meetings have been set up on March 11, 12, and 17 to “facilitate healing from the grief and distress from this tragic loss,” said Forest in a campus-wide email.

A funeral service for Justin “JJ” Cunningham will be held on Friday, March 12 from 4-6:30pm at the Rossi Funeral Home, 1937 Westfield Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ. A service of remembrance will begin shortly after.  

Any student who is struggling mentally or is in need of counseling should contact Mental Health Services at 609-771-2247 or visit their website for an overview of services the College can provide.

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