The Hilbert community has been in mourning over the death of sophomore Brittnay Summers. The criminal justice major passed away in a car accident on March 31st, and her sudden death has left a shock to those at Hilbert who knew her.
“She had a smile, and was just so fun,” said her advisor, English professor Megan Witzleben. “She found her way in class, and I think embraced the idea of always striving and looking for opportunities to better herself.”
Witzleben served both as Brittnay’s advisor, as well as her English 102 professor.
“There was a unit on the British romantics, and she thought it was too far removed from her life,” Witzleben said. “But then I pointed out to her that these were people who took common speech and made it poetic. And suddenly, she loved that idea; she always had her own spin on the material, and it made it fun for all of us.”
Brittnay was always proud of her work as a security guard, holding positions both at New Era Field, and at Canalside. Brittnay had aspirations of furthering a law enforcement career either here in New York, or down south in Florida.
In a time where students are not physically together, mourning and remembering Brittany has to take a different approach for now.
“Certainly writing about her,” said Witzleben. “Writing, in a way, keeps people alive. For example with poetry, they think about how you memorialize those who have passed on through writing about them, telling stories about them, and remembering that they count and they matter. Whether they are here with us physically, or with their spirit.”
Students have been taking to writing, with junior Danny Ostroski writing the following on the tribute wall on Brittnay’s obituary page:
“I wish I was able to get to know you better. I was really looking forward to going back to school and seeing your beautiful and radiant smile that brightened my day by so much every day. You were so so sweet and a literal angel, and you always ever looked happy when I passed you in the hallways. Rest easy sweetheart, you will forever be in my heart and on my mind. We’ll miss you so much.”
Hilbert College President, Michael Brophy, told The Scribe that once campus activities resume following the COVID-19 pandemic, the school has plans to more formally memorialize her.
“The college was represented at her memorial, but only two folks could go as only ten total are allowed to be there with the virus going around,” said Brophy. “But we did promise her parents that once everything is back up and normal, we’ll have a proper memorial on campus. [The family] also requested that we plant a tree on campus in her memory, and we’ll be really happy to do that as well.”
As the community continues to mourn from afar, Margaret Smith, vice president for mission integration and campus ministry, offers some wise words.
“It’s tempting to get swept away by fear and darkness when so many things seem to be falling apart around us,” Smith said. “This is where our faith kicks in. Christian hope isn’t an emotion: it’s a virtue that takes practice and hard work. It is a decision, made over and over again, to turn to light and to trust in God when things are difficult.”