MSU Mankato -- a campus in mourningby Art Hughes, Minnesota Public Radio
A traffic accident that killed one student and injured another from Minnesota State University Mankato over the weekend has brought more grief to a campus which has already seen two other students die this fall.
Mankato, Minn. — One Minnesota State University Mankato student was killed after being hit by a car early Sunday, and a second student, also hit by the car, remains in fair condition at Immanuel St. Joseph's Hospital.
One of the women was reportedly lying in the street, and the other was helping her up, when they were struck. The police are still investigating the accident.
The news that a young life is cut short too soon is always difficult. Just before the Thanksgiving break -- the start of the holiday season -- is a particularly bad time.
A heavy, gray mist hung over the Mankato campus Monday -- a bleak reflection of students' attitudes as they shuffled to class.
"Normally walking across campus, even if you don't know the students that you see, there's smiling, laughter, and certainly there's a lot less of that today," said MSU Mankato spokesman Michael Cooper.
Cooper says many on campus are in shock as they process the news that Rissa Amen-Reif left an annual sorority celebration Saturday night and ended up lying in a road miles away. The senior sociology student from Eden Prairie was struck and killed.
Her friend, Corinne Overstake of Loretto -- who police say may have been trying to help Amen-Reif -- was hurt and remains in the hospital.
Student body president Chris Frederick says grief is everywhere on campus.
"I'd say that the campus today is definitely mourning the loss of its peers, and you can feel that when walking on campus today," said Frederick.
Frederick says the two women are acquaintances. He says Amen-Reif was bright and popular, involved in the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, and in a campus volunteer project packaging food for needy people. About 400 fraternity and sorority members held a candlelight vigil Sunday night in her honor.
The campus of 14,000 students sits atop a hill overlooking the city of Mankato and the meandering Minnesota River valley. The relatively small size of the student population makes tragedies hit home, even for those without direct ties to the victims.
This is the third sudden death of a Mankato State student since the start of the semester. All of them appear unrelated.
Three weeks ago Amanda Jax died of alcohol poisoning after drinking at an off-campus bar. And last month, cross country athlete Catherine Delwiche was struck and killed by a car as she was jogging near campus.
During a break between classes at the campus student union, Dana Shutrop said the bad news makes her think of her own mortality. Shutrop, a junior studying social work, is from Mankato, and doesn't recall so many tragic events in such a short period.
"You don't expect it to happen as frequent as it has. I think it's just bad coincidences," said Shutrop. "I think people are being more careful. Last night it was just random. I wouldn't expect it. I haven't changed anything recently. But it keeps me aware of what could happen."
Officials have not said whether alcohol was a factor in Amen-Reif's death. She had left an earlier event her sorority sponsored at the off-campus VFW hall. The accident happened in an industrial part of north Mankato.
Campus spokesman Cooper says the sorority event was registered, and to his knowledge the group complied with university requirements.
"[They] told us where it was, when it was going to be, provided all the information that we required of them about the event and made all the necessary arrangements. They did everything they needed to do for that event," said Cooper.
The 17-year-old driver of the car was not injured. The State Patrol is investigating the accident.
- All Things Considered, 11/19/2007, 5:46 p.m.