Kira Horvath / For the Daily Camera
Kira Horvath / For the Daily Camera
Courage. Love. Support. Honesty.
Theses were among the words repeated again and again in the dozens of memorial speeches delivered on the steps on the University of Colorado’s Norlin Library on a damp Thursday night as hundreds gathered at a candlelight vigil held in honor of CU student Kenna Egbune, who died Wednesday.
Egbune, 20, was a member of several student groups, including Queer People of Color, the African Students Association, EyeResist and several other clubs that support underrepresented students.
Scarlet Bowen, director of CU’s GLBTQ Resource Center, confirmed Egbune’s death in an e-mail to students Thursday morning that read, “We are deeply saddened by the news that Ikenna ‘Kenna’ Egbune passed away last night.”
Friends said Egbune, a senior, died Wednesday after suffering a seizure on an RTD bus on his way home to Aurora. Broomfield police spokeswoman Joleen Reefe said a 20-year-old male Aurora resident was pronounced dead after having a seizure at the Broomfield Park-n-Ride at 12:04 p.m. Wednesday, but she could not confirm the victim’s identity.
Egbune’s friends said they decided to hold the vigil to celebrate his life and honor the impact he had on the community.
People were encouraged to bring their own candles, which, when lit and coupled with the red-light lanterns that illuminate Norlin Quad at night, made for a somber scene that prompted many passing by the area to stop and listen. Many of those who spoke could not contain their emotions and some in the crowd also broke into tears throughout the event.
Bowen was among those who addressed the assembled crowd — which braved a cold, wet night in Boulder — over a small public address system set up between Norlin’s pillars. Anyone who wanted to share his or her thoughts or memories was encouraged to take the microphone, which was set up behind an arrangement of photos of Egbune with candles around them.
“He will always remind me to ensure that we are making this a space that is safe for everyone,” Bowen said. “It was just so awesome how he strove for inclusivity throughout this campus.”
Many who spoke Thursday talked about Egbune’s confidence in who he was from the moment he arrived on the CU campus, as well as his ability to make others feel stronger through his encouraging presence and positive attitude.
“I guess I want to say we should all remember Kenna’s spirit of always being himself no matter what,” said one speaker who did not give his name. “That is a legacy we should carry on as students, as activists and as human beings.”
Cassie Herbert, a longtime friend of Egbune’s who met him while both attended Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora, said many of Egbune’s friends in Aurora had yet to hear of his death and she spent most of the day calling and grieving with some of them. She said she was not surprised by the turnout at Thursday’s vigil, or by the number of groups and activities through which Egbune had made friends at CU.
“He was the most hard working, loving person,” Herbert said. “I knew he could get anyone to light up. That was his gift.
“He was honest,” she added. “He gave it to you straight. I think that is what was beautiful about him. He was honest and he was loud.”
Emma Harsin Drager, a CU student and friend of Egbune’s, said his death was unexpected and shocking to everyone who knew him.
“He was an amazing student and an exemplary community member,” she said.
Colorado Daily Staff Writer Whitney Bryen contributed to this report.