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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Bobcat Pause honors deceased members of Texas State community

Jose+%26%238220%3BJoel%26%238221%3B+Velez%2C+Iliana+Velez%26%238217%3Bs+father%2C+accepts+a+white+rose+in+memory+of+his+daughter+during+the+Bobcat+Pause+memorial+service%2C+Thursday%2C+April+7%2C+2022%2C+at+the+LBJSC+Ballroom.+Iliana%2C+19%2C+was+killed+in+a+hit-and-run+car+collision+on+Interstate+35+in+January.+She+was+studying+architecture+and+interior+design+at+Texas+State.

Jose “Joel” Velez, Iliana Velez’s father, accepts a white rose in memory of his daughter during the Bobcat Pause memorial service, Thursday, April 7, 2022, at the LBJSC Ballroom. Iliana, 19, was killed in a hit-and-run car collision on Interstate 35 in January. She was studying architecture and interior design at Texas State.

Jose “Joel” Velez solemnly marched to the front of the Student Center ballroom, surrounded by tearful onlookers. A young woman handed him a white rose, and he bowed his head in thanks. The rose was to honor his daughter, Iliana Velez, whose photo he proudly displayed on his shirt.
Four months ago, 19-year-old Iliana was about to begin her second semester at Texas State, pursuing a degree in architecture and interior design. On Jan. 3, 2022, she was killed in a hit-and-run car collision. While nothing could describe the pain Jose felt in losing his daughter, for the moment, at least, he was surrounded by people who understood the loss he experienced.
During Bobcat Pause, students, faculty, staff and loved ones gathered to honor the memory of those in the Texas State family who passed away this past school year.
Organized by the Student Foundation, the event began at 5:15 p.m. with a reception for attendees to gather together and reflect on the lives of their loved ones.
Along the walls of the room, tables displayed photos and memorabilia of 50 deceased students, faculty and staff. Diplomas, books, stuffed animals and words of wisdom written by those who had died adorned the tables, while others displayed a singular photo of a burning candle.
The memorial service began at 6 p.m. with a welcoming message from the Student Foundation President KeAirra Haynes.
“Let us be a source of support for those in need and contentment for those who are in service,” Haynes said. “Let us have the wisdom to learn, to love, to respect and to be kind to each other so that we may all throw with a peace of mind, with our friends beside us and no person beneath us, with the bonds of our country between us in our worries behind us with our goals before us and no task beyond us.”
After the invocation, the Student Foundation played a slideshow presenting the names and photos of the deceased. President Denise Trauth then gave a speech expressing support for those who had lost loved ones.
“Each of the students, faculty members and staff members who we honor today has made an impact on Texas state. They are part of the fabric of our community,” Trauth said. “Acknowledge your own grief and support those around you who are also grieving. Neither time nor distance can separate us from the experiences we share with those we have lost. As long as our memories endure, their influence will be felt here at Texas State.”
Following the speech was a musical performance by Hill Country Youth Chorus Encore Ensemble, and then a reading of the names of those who had died. With each name, those attending in honor of that person stood to show their respect and received a white rose from the Student Foundation.
Among those honored at the ceremony was 22-year-old business administration graduate Kennedy Willingham, who died from COVID-19 less than a year ago. While Willingham was vaccinated, an underlying condition caused fatal complications in her fight against the virus.
Willingham’s immediate and extended family came to honor her. Her “auntie,” Wanda Roland, laughed through tears as she remembered how Willingham would tease her for being “old fashioned.”
“Even as a child, she was always happy. She was a beautiful person,” Roland said. “She was on the Dean’s List … she had a month, and she was about to get her marketing [degree].”
Jamie Villareal, attended to honor Iliana. The two grew up together in Katy, Texas and would often explore campus together, where they made many memories.
“She was so creative, and she loved music. She played piano,” Villareal said. “She was just the brightest light, the life of the party.”
In addition to Willingham and Velez, 15 other students were honored at the ceremony, along with 35 faculty and staff members. Friends, family and even fraternity brothers came to celebrate the lives of those the Texas State community lost this past year.
Toward the end of the ceremony, Haynes provided closing remarks to comfort those left behind. Haynes was glad to have the opportunity to put together Bobcat Pause as a way to honor the former Bobcats.
“It’s kind of our way of giving back to the Texas State community, just to show that we still honor our Bobcats, even though they may not be with us right now,” Haynes said. “Just as a way for the families to come together, support one another through such a hard time, allow the Texas State community to come out, whether they were previous coworkers, previous faculty members, whatever the case may be, just as a way to honor one another during this time.”
Information about this year’s memorial service, along with a list of honorees can be found at www.dos.txstate.edu/in-memoriam.

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