Tragedy struck Carleton on February 28, 2014, when an automobile accident on an icy road just three miles from campus claimed the lives of three students and injured two others. The students were on their way to the Minneapolis–St. Paul airport so that four of them, members of CUT (Carleton’s Division I men’s Ultimate Frisbee team), could travel to a tournament in California.
The Carleton community gathered in Skinner Memorial Chapel on April 12 to remember the lives of James Adams ’15, Michael Goodgame ’15, and Paxton Harvieux ’15 and to celebrate the ongoing recovery of Will Sparks ’15 and Conor Eckert ’18. A parent and a faculty member spoke about each of the deceased students. Excerpts from their remarks follow.
James Adams ’15
March 17, 1993–February 28, 2014
Hometown: St. Paul
The twinkling in the eye, the ever-present smile, the big hearty laugh, the determination always to do his best in the classroom, the lab, the playing field—that was the James Adams that Julia and I remember sending off to Carleton two and a half years ago.
James was on a new, very steep learning curve. He was being challenged academically as he had never been challenged before, and he was starting to focus on how he might go forward in the world after Carleton. James was an optimistic realist. He was under no illusions about the heights of either his academic or his athletic talents. He admired the talents that he saw in his gifted chemistry classmates and CUT teammates, but he was optimistic about himself and the results he could achieve through hard work.
For James, life was never a zero-sum game, where your success came at the cost of another’s rejection. No, you helped your friends. You gave them encouragement. You gave them ideas or leads, and it’s amazing how this generous attitude is returned many times over. I can’t imagine a better place, a more supportive place, for you to learn and grow and prepare to live out your dreams than here at Carleton, and I know James felt the same way.
Last year around this time, James stopped by my office for his first advising meeting as a chemistry major. I remember his excitement about having declared chemistry and how very charming he was. The following term, I got to know James much better in my chemical thermodynamics course. He always sat in the same spot in the first row, with his long legs stretched out. . . . He asked questions frequently, and consistently those questions helped the whole class understand a confusing point.
Outside the classroom, I saw him often: at my office hours, in the corridors, or working with his classmates, always ready to flash me a smile. He was able to make connections with a huge variety of people and, in doing so, made everyone feel noticed and special.
Many of the characteristics that allowed James to be a good student . . . were the same ones that allowed him to be a great athlete and a great guy. His ability to be a team player was on display when he asked questions in lectures when others were afraid to take the risk. He showed in the academic setting the same discipline that distinguished him as an athlete. He recruited a significant number of our majors, just as I am sure he recruited players for his teams. He pushed hard even when the outcome was not clear. His good nature and charm, his ability to have fun, and his generosity were remarkable, and made teaching James a true privilege.
—Daniela Kohen, associate professor of chemistry
Michael Goodgame ’15
July 1, 1993–February 28, 2014
Hometown: Westport, Connecticut
Major: political science
Michael was curious about all sorts of things, but he especially loved words. He loved to read them, he loved to write them, he loved to talk about them. One word we discussed recently was community, which we agreed is woefully abused. Michael and I agreed on how the word ought to be used: to refer to a group of people who share certain values and demonstrate care for one another. Michael knew that one of the best examples of proper usage is the phrase “the Carleton community.” We’ve never felt anything like the embrace of the Carleton community. We’re so very thankful that Michael found this place.
Before Michael died, he had everything going his way. He was energized by his work [as a columnist] for the Carletonian, and he had recently been selected for an internship with a news website in San Antonio, where I work. Michael had even recently achieved a longtime goal of learning from his mother how to peel a banana with his toes.
When we think of Michael’s final moments, we especially take solace in the fact that he was within arm’s length of four dear friends. He was excited to be traveling to California, where he and his teammates would once again dance on the earth, in harmony with one another, playing a game they loved.
Most of you know that Michael was a very fine student and athlete. But Michael also played another role at Carleton, an unusual role that he created for himself. He was a Carleton public intellectual. Michael was a longtime columnist for the Carletonian. His articles addressed a broad array of issues—from the social life of college students to America’s role in the world. This wide range is one mark of a public intellectual, but a more important distinction is that he connects current issues to the community’s first principles. And that is just what Michael specialized in.
Every community will occasionally fall short of its principles and standards, and Carleton, alas, is no exception. Michael was at his best and most characteristic when he felt the Carleton community wasn’t living up to its principles. He responded to those situations with thoughtfulness and courage. When Michael observed our occasional tendency to excuse ourselves from really thinking about things . . . he would call the community out or, more accurately, call the community back to itself.
This theme of free, rigorous, critical inquiry is really what all of Michael’s columns were about, and it was central to his academic writing as well, as I had the privilege to see. Even when he wasn’t explicitly talking about the core values of a liberal education, he exemplified them. He walked the walk. He walked it with verve and with nerve. And he managed to do so as a gentle person.
—Laurence Cooper, professor of political science
Paxton Harvieux ’15
September 8, 1992–February 28, 2014
Hometown: Stillwater, Minnesota
Major: computer science
Apparently one can learn a lot from clay. When Paxton began throwing pots on the wheel, he talked about how satisfying the clay felt in his hands, the barely contained excitement as the pot began to take form. As Paxton molded the clay ever taller, invariably the pot would become less stable. Pushing for a larger, more impressive pot or attempting a unique form could result in ruin. Even as peers admired a piece he was throwing and insisted he should be careful or quit, Paxton believed that he was capable of more. Sure, some of his pots collapsed in on themselves, but all that meant to Paxton was that he needed to gather himself, center the clay, and try again.
Paxton was able to help others elevate themselves. So many of us look to Paxton for encouragement and validation, because Paxton’s belief in you could quiet your doubtful voice, diminish your insecurities, and guide you toward your center. He challenged himself and those around him.
Paxton knew that he was not his résumé or his Facebook profile. He consistently communicated a powerful message of hope, one that we are all desperate to hear: “I respect you. I believe in you. I am proud of you. I love you.”
We all have dreams for ourselves, but we dream for others as well. Paxton dreamed of living in Berlin someday, and I shared that dream with him. He would have made a great Berliner: bold and sensitive, funny without being glib, artistic, smart, and curious—he’d fit right in. I’ve found myself thinking about the magical moments from our program in Berlin [last fall] and how they convey who Paxton was.
One memory: We’re visiting [a restaurant in] the city of Weimar; the 18th-century Duchess Anna Amalia appears in full costume and a bad wig to tell us about her life at court. As we leave the restaurant, Paxton hands Britta, our program coordinator, and me little artificial flowers that he’s snipped off a bouquet on the table. After all, he’s just been educated on the virtues of chivalry. The next day, seeing that Britta is wearing hers on her lapel, he looks at my unadorned coat and says sternly, in perfect German, “Britta is wearing her flower. Where is your flower?” I tell him I didn’t have a safety pin to attach it to my coat and I would hate to lose it. But back in Berlin, I pin the small bud to my coat, and all the way until the end of the term, Paxton looks at it occasionally and nods, like a teacher checking if his student is on track.
I wore his little flower on my coat on the flight back and all winter. I will carry it with me into the future.
—Sigi Leonhard, professor of German
Will Sparks ’15 (Evanston, Ill.) is recovering from his injuries and is back on campus. He is working toward a major in economics.
Conor Eckert ’18 (Seattle) is making excellent progress in physical and rehabilitation therapy as he recovers from broken bones and a traumatic brain injury. He returned to campus for the second half of spring term.
The February 28 [car] accident that killed Michael Goodgame, Paxton Harvieux, and James Adams and seriously injured Conor Eckert and Will Sparks devastated the Carleton community. There is no road map to recovery. There is no template for how you move forward. Left behind were a bunch of kids who had no idea what to do.
It isn’t essential to know the specifics of those next few days: playing Settlers, cooking food together, making each other laugh, hugging and crying, telling stories, far exceeding the capacity of beds and couches, and playing hoops together. But the underlying theme, the foundation of those first days is, to me, incredibly important. The team sought strength, refuge, support, and understanding from each other. Each knew exactly what the others were going through; they loved each other unconditionally, made each other laugh, didn’t make each other feel uncomfortable, and didn’t tiptoe around the issue.
The outpouring of support from the Ultimate community has been incredible. Everyone is aching to help in the most profound ways. In a community as close as ours, where we are connected by shared experiences, common goals, and a communal sense of ownership of our sport, it’s no wonder we feel so affected. We have all imagined ourselves in that car.
But none of us really knows what the team is feeling. We can’t insert ourselves into that huddle, no matter how much we’d like to. . . .
There is a ton of work ahead. Everyone is on a long path to a different form of normal. We are getting back on the field to work together in practice. We will continue to work together against our opponents. These are necessary first steps, but welcome ones.
—Phil Bowen ’96, coach of CUT, the Carleton men’s Ultimate Frisbee team
(This excerpt is from an article published March 20 on Ultiworld, a website devoted to Ultimate. Read the full article.)
Healing as a Community
On the evening of February 28, President Steve Poskanzer and Hudlin Wagner, dean of students, sent an e-mail to all students and faculty and staff members to inform them of the accident. It read, in part: “The collective Carleton soul aches. Right now, we need to focus all our love and compassion on supporting the families and friends of these young men, along with everyone in our community who cares for them.”
The next day, hundreds of people attended a vigil in Skinner Memorial Chapel. In the following days, Carleton’s chaplains and counselors met with students one on one. Alumni and parents sent countless messages of support via Carleton listservs, Facebook, and Twitter.
A group of alumni and parents staged Operation Mailbox Love on March 7. Campus and community volunteers stuffed flowers into every student mailbox. “You are loved,” read the message displayed in the Sayles-Hill Campus Center. Students who were away on off-campus study programs received flowers with the same message.
St. Olaf students staged a second act to this day of love and support by sending a flower with a handwritten note to every Carleton student that afternoon.
“We always knew this was a community marked by emotionally deep reservoirs of care and empathy,” said President Poskanzer at the April 12 campus memorial service. “Carleton is knit together by our shared concern for one another. Never has this been more evident. I hear a chorus of students and faculty who sing of their reinforced commitment to focus on what truly matters, to live fully with an express and noble purpose.”
Watch a video of the April 12 memorial service and read remembrances posted by members of the Carleton community on the college’s Farewells site. The video is linked from James’s, Michael’s, and Paxton’s individual pages.