Monthly Column July 2015
Remembering Jason Ramos
The College lost a valuable employee last month, but more importantly we lost a dear friend. Jason Ramos, our assistant residence life director was just 36 years young. Fortunately, it is not often that the College loses a student or employee, but such an event does highlight the need for preparation for such a situation. And Jason was not simply an employee. He lived with our students on campus and was a friend to all and a father figure to many of our residential students. Despite the rarity of the occasion, the College rallied to meet the challenge.
The College is closed on Fridays during the summer and so everyone was off campus when we first learned of Jason’s tragic death in a car crash Thursday evening. I will share with you the way things progressed and the lessons learned in the process.
At the onset, there was a lack of information that concerned us. Jason’s parents let us know early Friday morning that they were notified that he was killed in a car accident on the interstate, but we had no further details. We certainly heard the news that there had been six people killed on I-75 Thursday evening near Ooltewah, but we did not know for certain if this was the same accident that claimed our Jason. We thought he would have been driving alone but no one knew that for certain. We knew he was headed to Ohio to visit his family. As the mother of a son, my heart ached for this family. Sharing the news with colleagues and students before they heard the news through the media was a very time sensitive issue that we had to address initially. Next, we had to field calls from the media and ensure that the news we shared was accurate and appropriate. Our Marketing and Communications Office stepped in with grace under fire and coordinated information with our Residence Life Director and the Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services.
Our Coordinator of Counseling and Career Services was out of the country and therefore the newly hired Counselor shouldered the full responsibility of organizing support services for students and employees who might need grief counseling. Some of our resident assistants who had graduated in May and moved away returned to town to help as soon as they heard the news. The resident students held a bonfire Friday evening to grieve and reminisce about their friend and colleague. When the word went out across the university system, counselors from Kennesaw State University and the University of West Georgia volunteered to come help us in our time of need. We heard from countless colleagues across the state who sent their sympathies and condolences.
We communicated with Jason’s family several times in the next few days, and then we sent a bus of nearly twenty students and employees to the service. The family welcomed them with open arms as together they mourned the loss, celebrated the life and shared memories of Jason. He was famous for his story telling and his family was everything he had led us to believe and more. They became our family, and we became their family. We have Jason to thank for that. He was special to us all. The family had a Dalton State College banner proudly on display at the funeral service, and I can just picture the reception our students received when the Dalton State Roadrunner bus pulled up to the funeral home. How fortunate we are that Athletics not only allowed us to use their bus but provided the driver as well.
This is a situation that, thankfully, occurs rarely. Nevertheless, it reminds us to tell our friends and family today how much we love them. It reminds us that we have family we don’t know we have until such a crisis occurs. It reminds us that we can rally as a team when needed. It reminds us that someone like Jason, a young man still early in his career and life, can deeply touch the lives of many in a very positive way in a very short time. We are better for having known Jason Ramos. We will do our best to carry on his legacy.
Jason was instrumental in organizing a project at the College referred to as “The Birdfeeder.” This is a food pantry project created to ensure that our college students do not go hungry in order to pay for their tuition and books. His family has asked that those who care to do so consider making a donation in Jason’s memory. Gifts may be sent to the Dalton State College Business Office (Birdfeeder Account Fund), 650 College Drive, Dalton GA 30720. Jason left an undeniable legacy here at Dalton State College, and we now each search our own hearts for guidance on the legacy we hope to leave.