March of Solidarity

By Leo D. Rommel

The way Steve Klemchalk saw it, after all the good Gary DeVercelly Jr. did for the people in his life, this was the least others could do in return.

In honor of the late 18-year-old whose father considered him a “big brother” to his younger siblings, Lawrenceville SGA president Klemchalk led hundreds of students, staff and faculty in the “CaliPledge” on Monday before they all headed off on a commemorative march to raise money for a newly created scholarship named after the Long Beach, Calif., student known to his East Coast friends as “Cali.”

“From what I heard, Gary was a great friend, a loyal brother and someone you could depend on,” said Klemchalk.
“The turnout at this march illustrates not only how big of a role he had on campus, but it also shows how much we care for each other and that there is a shared sense of responsibility for one another.”

The march was made up predominantly of Greeks, most of whom wore blue graphic-covered T-shirts that signified the official kickoff of Greek Week on campus. The only Greeks who did not wear the colored shirts were the brothers of Phi Kappa Tau (PKT), DeVercelly’s fraternity, who instead donned their trademark white jerseys because of their emotional tie to the event. All marchers were asked to donate at least $10 toward the scholarship.

“I pledge to serve as my fellow students’ keeper and seek help for myself or others when needed,” the students recited loudly on the front steps of Moore Library, reading from small cards that they were asked to sign and keep in their wallets. Additional vows included, “refrain from abusing alcohol and participating in harmful drinking games” and “insure that neither I nor any of my friends will drive under the influence of alcohol.”

In an e-mail sent out to the student body a week earlier, the event, which was sponsored by the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, was created with the objective of raising $10,000 for the scholarship. The students and staff who attended the event raised $8,362, said Klemchalk. An unnamed donor made up the difference.

According to Dean of Students Tony Campbell, the scholarship will be given to a freshman who best symbolizes positive characteristics displayed by DeVercelly during his tenure at Rider, including but not limited to, compassion, concern for others and academic excellence.

“The march went very well,” said Campbell. “The key to all of this is the realization that we have personal and shared responsibility within ourselves and to each other, and the fact that they are pledging to end abusive behaviors and to be responsible is an important issue.”

DeVercelly collapsed in the wee hours of the morning on March 29 after overdrinking inside the PKT fraternity house during a new member event. He died later the next day at Capital Health System, Fuld Campus, a hospital in Trenton, after his blood alcohol level reached 0.426, more than five times the legal driving limit. The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the incident as a possible hazing incident.

The University has since placed the fraternity on “administrative suspension” but postponed possible disciplinary action until after the police investigation ends.

The investigation may come to a close at the end of this week, The Lawrence Ledger reported in an April 19 article.

The march was originally scheduled for April 16, but inclement weather conditions generated by the nor’easter pushed the event back a week.

“I’m very pleased with how everything went,” said Klemchalk. “In one of my friend’s room, there’s the card with the vows on it hanging over his desk. Being a part of that means a lot to me,
personally.”

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