September 22, 2003

Elwood '06 Identified as Deceased Student

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Scot Elwood ’06, a member of the University wrestling team, died Thursday night after he inadvertently jumped into the Fall Creek Gorge.

According to reports, Elwood and a teammate were attempting to find a shortcut to their destination from the area behind Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, when the sophomore jumped over a fence at approximately 10:50 p.m., thinking there was a trail on the other side.

Bangs Ambulance, the Ithaca Fire Department and the Ithaca Police all responded to the call, and upon arriving at the scene, rappelled into the gorge to retrieve Elwood, according to one previous report.

Brian Wasserman ’05, president of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, said that Elwood was “never inside the fraternity house [prior to the fall].”

Word spread quickly among members of the community as coaches and staff provided support for the student who was with Elwood and his teammates, according to Linda Grace-Kobas, interim vice president for communications and media relations.

“Scot’s death is a tragedy,” said Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin in a statement to The Sun. “My thoughts are with his family, his friends, his teammates and the many other people whose lives were enriched by their relationships with him and who are now grieving his death.”

Travis Lee ’05 echoed many of his teammates’ sentiments saying that the New Albany, Ohio native “was such a nice guy, he was really likable.” Wrestling head coach Rob Koll said Elwood was “a perfect kid for Cornell” and was a “very, very popular member of the team.”

“He was a kid that always had a smile on his face, no matter what the situation was,” Mike Mormile ’05 said. “He always knew how to brighten up our day.”

Elwood’s funeral in New Albany is at 11 a.m. today. Koll said that he and ten students left for the ceremony by plane earlier this morning.

An on-campus memorial has not been planned yet although athletic director Andy Noel said that, “there’s an attitude that we would really like to do something to memorialize Scot.”

“[The parents] haven’t even gotten to the funeral yet,” Grace-Kobas said. “Whatever is done is done in conjunction with the family’s wishes.”

In New Albany High School, Elwood captained his wrestling, soccer and lacrosse teams. He also won a pair of matches at both the Wilkes and Edinboro Open competitions and was a state runner-up in Ohio for his weight class.

“He was one of my best friends,” said Tyler Shovlin ’05. “It’s going to be hard to get over … he’s going to be in my thoughts, my memories.”

This is not the first time that tragedy has struck the wrestling team. During a practice on Nov. 25, 2000, Graham B. Morin ’04 died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a rare heart condition.

According to Noel, Elwood was “a very polite, young man.” This type of incident might make teammates work harder “in Scot’s honor,” Noel added.

“These tragedies are unexpected and heartbreaking and we have to continue to work hard and remember our fallen teammates and know how they loved the program,” Noel said.

Primarily organized by crisis manager, Catherine Holmes, who was also instrumental in providing support to friends and parents, the team met on Friday afternoon for a community support meeting, according to Tanni Hall ’76, associate dean of students for student support.

Hall said the meeting helped “give a feeling of support and a feeling to help each other.”

“Whenever something happens, we try to assess who’s affected and what they need,” Hall said. “Healing takes a long time so people shouldn’t expect that they would feel better very fast.”

This is the first student death during the current academic year. Last April, the University community experienced four student deaths; Karl Brown ’04, Mihoko Kajikawa grad, Kristen Osborne ’04 and Vinod Kundnani grad. Grace-Kobas said that while Brown and Kajikawa’s deaths were ruled suicides, the autopsy results for Kundnani remained inconclusive and Osborne’s death was ruled accidental.

“From EARS to Gannett’s Counseling and Psychological Services to the Suicide Hotline and Cornell United Religious Work, there are services readily available to students who are feeling anxiety and sadness,” Grace-Kobas said.

When talking about his first impressions of Elwood, Koll remembered when he showed up to school wearing a ten-gallon hat and his occasional tie-dye attire at practices — characteristics which “was typical of his personality.”

“He’s such a big part of everything we did,” Jim March ’06 said. “He was a friend to everybody … he was a great kid. I’m going to miss him a lot.”

Archived article by Brian Tsao