The Tower bells chimed 18 times over a crowd of candlelit faces Monday evening, honoring each year of the life of Haruka Weiser.
Student Government held a memorial ceremony on the Main Mall in honor of Weiser, the dance freshman from Portland, Oregon, murdered on campus one year ago.
“On that day, Haruka became an angel for everyone,” the Weiser family said in a letter to the University read by urban studies sophomore Sylvia Feghali, Weiser’s former roommate. “She became a teacher to guide us with her bright faith. Her light lifts our hearts even (when) we are in the darkest moments of our life. Her light continues to remind us of the goodness in us, in all humankind.”
UT President Gregory Fenves said the community was overwhelmed by shock, sadness and grief after Weiser’s death, and UT mourned together as
“She represented the very best of this University with her talent, her focus and her determination,” Fenves said. “If you know the University of Texas, you knew Haruka Weiser.”
Weiser spent her high school days immersed in dance, watching YouTube videos of her favorite performers with a drive to succeed, Fenves said. Later, when Weiser stepped onto the 40 Acres, she fell in love with UT and Austin.
“I can say without hesitation that the honor was ours,” Fenves said. “She will always be part of our thoughts to inspire us. The Weiser family’s courage and bravery has helped us to heal our community.”
Student Body Vice President-elect Micky Wolf said Weiser’s death was a catalyst for the Be Safe Campaign, an initiative aimed to change the culture of campus safety. The campaign’s message, “Walk With Me,” is an invitation for students to walk together on campus.
“In launching the program in October, Mr. Weiser and Mrs. Weiser shared the three meanings for Walk With Me,” Wolf said. “The first was to walk with each other. The second was to walk with Haruka’s memory and purpose. The third meaning … is to walk with us and all who are suffering.”
Neuroscience junior Jackie Roth said she became friends with Weiser through her roommates and was with Weiser the night before she went missing.
“When something this big happens, it definitely alters your memory of the person, because you want to hold on to the good things and you remember all the parts that made her special,” Roth said. “All of my memories of her are just such positivity and fun. She was so purely talented and just passionate about what she did.”
Weiser was an avid dancer recruited by the College of Fine Arts to dance for the University and was involved in Dance Action, a student-run organization for dancers. She participated in the fall 2015 Dance Action concert.
“She just made friends with everyone,” Roth said. “She was super, super kind, wore the greatest outfits, super thrifty (and) listened to good music.”
Student Body President Kevin Helgren said he made his first public appearance as president at the first community gathering last year for Weiser’s death.
“(The Weisers) have every reason to be sad and frustrated and upset,” said Helgren, psychology and neuroscience senior. “But they don’t let those emotions mask the fact their daughter made a tremendous impact on the University, and it’s our job as a University to honor that legacy.”
To honor her legacy, Fenves said the University can remember Weiser, learn from her passion and kindness and take action to improve safety both on and off campus.
“(Weiser) strove to make every moment important, vital and worth living,” Fenves said. “To honor her memory, let’s do the same.”