BY ANNA KANE ’20
Christopher Collins, the Amherst College student who passed away last week, will be remembered for his “bright smile and his warm, gentle nature,” according to his obituary.
On Thursday, March 29, Collins’ remains were discovered at 6:15 a.m. between the Morris Pratt Dormitory and the Arms Music Center by a member of the grounds crew on Amherst College campus. The identity of the body was not released to the public until later that night, after his family was notified of his passing. Students were notified of a death on campus early that morning by the Amherst College Alert (ACAlert) system before campus and local police concluded that there was no safety threat to the community at large. Christopher Collins, class of 2020, was a math major from Wakefield, Rhode Island.
Amherst College Police, Amherst Police and Massachusetts State Police Detectives assigned to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Northwestern District Attorney’s office investigated the case jointly, according to a statement released by Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan’s office on March 29. The District Attorney’s office stated on March 30 that no foul play was suspected in Collins’ death.
According to Mass Live, Amherst College spokeswoman Sandy Genelius stated that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner would determine the cause of death and decide what, if any, further information would be released. It was later released that Collins took his own life.
“In this moment, our community needs to come together and offer support to one another. There are a variety of resources and several planned gatherings for students, faculty and staff over the next several days and weeks to help us begin the process of dealing with our shock and grief over this terrible loss,” stated a post on Amherst College’s Facebook page on March 30. “Our deepest sympathies go out to Chris’ family and friends, and to our entire community. When a member of the community dies suddenly and tragically, none of us is left untouched.”
According to The Amherst Student, classes were cancelled from noon to 1 p.m. for a community-wide gathering in Collins’ honor at Johnson Chapel. Stirn Auditorium served as an overflow room for the faculty, staff and students who gathered to remember Collins and his life. College President Biddy Martin, mathematics professor Gregory Call and baseball coach Brian Hamm all spoke to Collins’ kindness, musical talents and openness about his struggle with anxiety and depression.
“Chris was open about his struggles,” Martin said at the March 30 gathering, according to a report by The Amherst Student. “He was open about the depression and anxiety he experienced. Chris’s family is generous and courageous enough to be open about it as well, in knowing that, in the end, it took him from us.”
According to his obituary, the Collins family asks that donations be made to the Christopher Collins Memorial Fund in lieu of flowers in order to “shine a light on mental illness.”
“Chris courageously battled anxiety and depression for several years, and it is important to him and his loved ones that the societal stigma of the disease is washed away, the illness’ prevalence in our communities is recognized and we learn to identify and care for those who may be suffering,” stated his obituary.
Francesca Eremeeva ’20 takes an Arabic class at Amherst every morning. “It was jarring to know that something like this happened in our small Five College Community,” she said. “After learning the details of what happened, I was deeply saddened by the situation. We should invest more in mental health, especially in reducing stress culture and teaching the community to recognize when someone is hurting.”
Collins will be buried on Thursday, April 5 at 11 a.m. in the New Fernwood Cemetery in Kingston, Rhode Island.
Collins’ death comes just weeks after that of Amherst senior Andrew Dorogi ’18. Dorogi, from Cleveland, Ohio, was an economics major and member of the varsity football team. He died unexpectedly while on spring break in Mexico City, Mexico on March 16. An email from Martin to the campus community on March 18 announced his death. Dorogi was honored in a packed community gathering in Cole Assembly Room on March 19. No details were released about his death at his parents’ request.