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Support shown for Austin Bice by students at Vigil

By Darleen Denno, Copy Chief

The Hofstra community gathered in Hofstra USA on March 9 to support Alexis Gompf, Hofstra alumna, after the death of Austin Bice.

Bice went missing in Madrid, Spain about two weeks ago. His body was found on Tuesday, according to CBS news. Angelica Patterson, Hofstra senior, originally intended to hold an Open Mic to raise money for a search party but after hearing that Bice's body was found, she began planning a different event. While money for a search team was no longer needed, Patterson still wanted to raise money to bring Bice's body back to California. Her immediate thought was to organize a candle light vigil to support those affected by Bice's death.

Patterson is connected to Bice's death through Bice's high school sweetheart and close friend, Gompf. Bice and Gompf have known each other since 4th grade, according to Patterson. Gompf lived with Patterson for the last two years at Hofstra, but recently graduated and went back to San Diego, Ca. They have known each other since their freshman year at Hofstra. Gompf and Patterson's relationship grew from their first meeting at freshman orientation.

"She's been a really great friend, when she needed help it was like ‘no questions asked'," Patterson said.

The candle light vigil consisted of many performances from on-campus clubs and organizations, as well as students that wanted to show their support.

As students walked into Hofstra USA, they received a red ribbon and a candle. Students walked collectively outside and lit their candles while Sigma'cappella performed.

Peter Singh, member of the Hofstra Gospel Ensemble, then led the group in a prayer and a moment of silence. Students solemnly followed a tuba player performing softly, to hear from Gompf back inside.

Patterson connected a computer to a projector so everyone could see Gompf on Skype. While the call was connected, Patterson read a poem she wrote for her best friend, titled "Kite Strung Farewell." Gompf then read a letter she wrote to those at the vigil. Her letter described the relationship she had with Bice and the longing for more time with him. "Austin and I will never get to do the things we dreamed of," Gompf read as she tried to suppress tears.

Patterson and Gompf expressed their gratitude to the Hofstra community for showing their support toward a family they didn't know.

"It's beautiful," Gompf said.

Numerous organizations donated to Patterson and Gompf's cause to bring Bice's body back to California: Alpha Phi, Pi Kappa Alpha, Spectrum, IMANI Dance Ensemble, masquerade, Sigma'cappella, Makin' Treble and Hofstra Gospel Ensemble. Each organization and student that donated walked across the stage and spoke to Gompf on Skype.

"It's a great cause," President of Makin' Treble Melody Hall said. "It didn't matter that we didn't know him."

After communicating with Gompf via Skype, six performers sang, danced and read poetry to the attendees while they signed blankets in the back of the room. The signed Hofstra blankets will be hand-delivered to Bice's parents and Gompf by Patterson next month.

Ballpark-themed refreshmentshot dogs, peanuts and cracker jackswere offered during the performances to celebrate Bice's love for football. While seating was available, most students sat on blankets on the floor for a "picnic feel."

Patterson emphasized that it isn't Madrid's fault for what happened to Bice; "I heard students saying ‘Oh, that's why I'm not studying abroad.'"

"Help me spread the word not to be afraid of Madrid," said Patterson.

Students gathered at Hofstra USA Wednesday night to show support for the family and friends of Austin Bice. Bice was a student at San Diego State University who was found dead in Madrid, Spain after a ten day search. (Laura Molinari/The Chronicle)

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