“This is not the way it’s supposed to be,” said Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., university president, at a memorial service last Thursday for Kinara Patel, 18, a business student from Northern New Jersey.
“This is not supposed to happen to someone so young,” he said.
Patel was found dead in Sullivan Hall Thursday just before 10 a.m.
“Four days into the beginning [of the school year] we receive such disturbing news,” Donohue said, noting that this is supposed to be the most exciting time of the year for a student such at Patel, whom he described as “friendly and energetic.”
The service, concluding a painful day, was held in the St. Thomas of Villanova Church.
“We come together to mourn Kinara, but also to celebrate who she was with us,” Donohue said.
In front of an overflowing crowd of students, faculty and staff—some crying, many sitting silently in disbelief and all mourning—Donohue reflected on the surreal events of that day.
But Donohue also implored the University community to recognize its ability to begin the healing process, acting as pillars of support both for each other and Patel’s family.
“[The Gospel] tells us to reach out and take care of each other,” he said. “Now is the time to do that. It’s time for us to take care of each other.”
Villanova Emergency Medical Services and Radnor Police Department responded to a call Thursday morning from a friend of Patel who said the sophomore was unresponsive.
Shortly after medical and police personnel arrived and assessed the situation, John P. Stack, O. S. A., vice president for Student Life, informed the University community that an undergraduate student had been found dead in a residence hall. In an email to students, faculty and staff, Fr. Stack said there were “no signs of foul play.”
“All of us here at Villanova are saddened to learn of this tragedy and extend our deepest sympathy and prayers to family and friends of this student,” he added.
A few hours later, Stack sent another email identifying the deceased student as Patel and saying that she was a sophomore in the Villanova School of Business. Stack also announced the memorial service that night.
Later that afternoon Radnor Police Department held a press conference at its headquarters on Iven Avenue to release the official details of this tragic incident to the media.
Lieutenant Andy Block stated that Patel passed away overnight and emphasized that the cause of death was unknown. He reiterated, though, that there were no signs of foul play, nor did she have any apparent health problems or suicidal intentions. Lt. Block also explained that the Radnor Police Department Detective Bureau and Delaware County Medical Examiner Office would be investigating Patel’s death and conducting an autopsy the following morning.
As of Tuesday evening the results of this examination are unclear, and the details likely will not emerge until weeks from now.
Liz Kennedy, assistant vice president of communications at the University, offered brief remarks after Lt. Block’s report.
“While any death is heartbreaking, to lose someone this young is devastating,” Kennedy said. “Kinara Patel…was a really important member of our community.”
Responding to multiple questions about Patel’s whereabouts and activity on the night prior to her death, Lt. Block declined to speculate, saying that these facts will be ascertained and communicated to the public at the conclusion of the ongoing investigation. However, he did confirm that she was seen that night with her friends from school “in the community of Bryn Mawr.”
Lt. Block declined to identify exactly where she was seen.
A private service for Patel was held last weekend, attended only by her family.