May 21, 2019

Student death stuns Webster

Students and faculty of Webster University were shocked to hear the news of the death of one of their fellow students on Sept. 28.

Freshman Mason Gaddis died in his St. Louis home Tuesday. Faculty was notified that afternoon and floor meetings were held for students living in the all-freshmen West Hall and in Maria Hall. The circumstances of Gaddis’ death are not yet known.

Gaddis was studying in the School of Communications and lived on the Learning Community floor of Maria. His father, Ron Gaddis, is an adjunct professor in the biology department.

News of Gaddis’ death shook many on campus who knew him.

“Any information and what led to this day we don’t know,” said John Buck, associate dean of students and director of Housing and Residential Life. “It’s sudden and it’s tragic.”

As part of the Learning Community at Webster, Gaddis lived on the same floor in Maria with residents who had similar majors. These students would have had three classes with Gaddis this semester.

In Gaddis’ freshman seminar, sophomore philosophy major Antonio Sanchez worked as a peer mentor. Sanchez said all appeared to be well with Gaddis when he last saw him.

“(Gaddis) just seemed like a really cool guy, really happy and care-free,” Sanchez said. “I just can’t believe this.” Keith Welsh, an associate professor in the religious studies department, teaches the seminar, “To Hell and Back,” however he declined to comment at the time of publication.

Buck said in an effort to cope with the news of Gaddis’ death, a meeting between professional staff and Residential Assistants was held during the late afternoon on Tuesday and Buck arranged for counselors to be available.

“We went into overdrive to get professional counselors,” Buck said.

In addition to the five counselors in Health Services, seven more counselors were called in to offer support and guidance during the floor meetings.

“This is not a time to be alone,” Buck said. “People grieve in different ways, they need support.”

Stephanie Schroeder, chair of the biological sciences department, works with Ron Gaddis. She said Gaddis called in Tuesday afternoon to let her know that Mason Gaddis had died and that he would not be able to teach his class the next day.

“We’re, at this point, waiting,” Schroeder said. “We’re letting him take the lead on what he wants from us. We can cover his classes — we’ll do our best to cover his classes (for as long as he needs) — (and) be able to help him in any way he needs us to.”

Like Schroeder, many students and faculty members are left waiting to see what happens.

“It’s still too raw,” Schroeder said.

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