“Gregory’s Corner” remembers cherished student who “dreamed big”

By Molly Duerig and Katie McHugh

Friends of the late Gregory Sadler, 22, a senior student at Allegheny College who died April 27, are happy to know that the colorful mural, “Gregory’s Corner,” still remains where a small group of students painted it, near a picnic table outside of North Village II, where Gregory was found when he died.

Greg's friend, Karley Miller, '14, described his open-mindedness with the quote,  "I Sense but I Do Not Know," while he was alive. That same quote is part of the mural that was painted by students in Gregory's honor.
Greg’s friend, Karley Miller, ’15, described his open-mindedness with the quote, “I Sense but I Do Not Know,” while he was alive. That same quote is part of the mural that was painted by students in Gregory’s honor.

Gregory, a transfer student from Mercyhurst College, had recently completed his senior project and was planning to study abroad in China during the fall semester before graduating in spring of 2014, according to Chaplain Jane Ellen Nickell.

Friends Karley Miller, ’15, and Patrick Kelly, ’14, started painting the mural with Karley’s art supplies after they attended an intimate, hour-long service hosted at Ford Chapel by the Counseling Center on the day after Gregory passed away.

“I could only really stand being there [at the service] for twenty minutes,” Karley said. Walking back with Patrick, her boyfriend, the pair discussed their struggle to encounter a way to help everyone in their grieving.

“[The mural] was a really spur-of-the-moment idea,” Karley said, explaining that she and Patrick said, “Let’s grab a bunch of paint.”

They were soon joined by Lisa Roberson, ’14, and a small group that eventually grew to more than 25-30 students who gathered to help paint, watch the painting happen or some combination of the two.

Many students stopped by to sign their names on the mural, which was painted over a course of about three days. Karley and Lisa painted most of the images, but Greg’s fraternity brothers added many of the signatures as well as Phi Delta Theta symbols, Karley said.

In memory of their friend, students painted a variety of images on the wall of his corner – a pickle, a yellow rubber duck, his fraternity’s blue and white crest, a portrait of him crying in front of the United States flag (in remembrance of his profile photo on Facebook, in which he is also wearing sunglasses) and another portrait of him, surrounded by the quote, “I sense but I do not know,” in which he is smiling.

Karley explained that the quote came from another portrait she painted of Greg while he was still alive. The two had been drawing together while talking about religion, a topic they often discussed. Karley said the quote “I sense but I do not know” refers to Greg’s open mind, his refusal to come to conclusions too rapidly.

Photo of Gregory Sadler contributed by Erin Sumerfield.
Photo of Gregory Sadler contributed by Erin Sumerfield.

She explained the reasoning for the location of the mural, which is set off to the side of the main entrance, barely visible from North Main Street.

The mural students painted for Gregory Sadler outside of North Village II.
The mural students painted for Gregory Sadler outside of North Village II.

“We wanted to do it where he was found […] we were contemplating doing it on this large wall on the side, but we knew that probably, administration would have an issue with that,” Karley said. “We wish we had more space.”

Karley said a Facebook group, Save Greg Sadler’s Mural, was created after a rumor began circulating about the Physical Plant’s plans to remove the mural during the summer, when no students would be around to notice.

“I’m not sure whether [Physical Plant] actually stated that or not,” Karley said. “But Joe Hall said he would keep an eye on it throughout the summer […] and at the end of the day, we’re just gonna come back and put it back up until they get tired of taking it down.”

She added that she would be very confused if the mural were to be removed. Greg’s mom, Kimberly Kopystecki, commented in the group to say she agreed the mural should not be removed. “I hope [the mural] is taken real care of,” Kopystecki said in a comment.

Students decorated "Gregory's Corner" with drawings and quotes to remember their beloved friend. Flower offerings were also left next to the mural
Students decorated “Gregory’s Corner” with drawings and quotes to remember their beloved friend. Flower offerings were also left next to the mural

“I really don’t see how keeping the mural would be a debate,” Karley said. “[The mural] is commemorating a really important part of the Allegheny community. Greg is someone who would claim to be a huge introvert. But over 500 people showed up to his service. That says something.”

The Service: Remembering “Gregor”

At the community memorial service held for Greg at Ford Chapel on Monday, April 29, Karley said Greg had a wonderful sense of humor. She met him two years ago, when she was a senior in high school visiting Patrick, her boyfriend and Greg’s friend.

“Greg was the first person I met here [at Allegheny]. He was cracking me up from the first moment I met him,” Karley said. “He was just so open and nice in a way I never imagined somebody could be.”

Corey Carlson, ’14, friends with “Gregor” since he transferred to Allegheny three years ago from Mercyhurst College, also said that Greg loved to laugh and smile.

“Greg was a hardworking, intelligent, caring, very thoughtful person. He was very close to his friends and had a lot of people who cared about him,” Corey said.

Though Corey said he would try to get through his dedication speech without crying, he began tearing up during the first sentence.

“There are no words which will fix this situation or take away your friends’ devastating grief. The most important thing you can do is be there for your friends who are grieving…sometimes, saying nothing is just what needs to be done,” Corey said during the service.

“One thing I can say is Greg Sadler – or Gregor, as many of us would call him – would be very proud of the way everyone has been there for each other, pulled together and united,” Corey said. “It just goes to show that we all carry a bit of Greg in all of our souls, that deeply-entrenched natural instinct to care for one another.”

After Karley and Corey spoke, Phi Delta Theta brothers held a fraternal memorial ceremony in his honor.

Brandon Staley, ’13, played “Amazing Grace” on the saxophone. Toward the end of the ceremony the audience sang along to “Wonderwall” by Oasis, led by pianist Joseph Lasko, ’13, and guitarist Aris Pantelas, ’13.

“I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now,” the audience sang in unison.

“‘Gregor’ is so alive in every single one of us,” Corey said. “Between us we have so many amazing memories to share. So let’s keep sharing them, enjoying them. He’d want us to be happy. Laughter is always what got him through his hard times, and laughter is what’s gonna get us through ours.”

Phi Delta Theta brother David Eddy, ’13, shared his memories of Greg as a supportive friend and a wise, attentive listener.

“If any of us ever had a problem, he was there whenever and wherever we needed him,” David said. “He was also always cheerful. Whenever he noticed that we weren’t cheerful, he would come over and start cracking jokes, and just continue cracking jokes until we were cheerful.”

David added that Greg’s greatest passion was the pursuit of knowledge.

Computer Science professor Robert Roos, who helped Greg with his senior project, remembers Greg with his eyes wide open, eager to consider new ideas.

“Many Computer Science students search for a long time to find an appropriate topic for their senior projects. Greg had his all figured out from the start,” Professor Roos said.

Roos explained that Greg had always been fascinated with alphabets, designing his own letter shapes from a young age. Greg’s goal for his senior project was to redesign the traditional Latin alphabet from scratch, using a computer program that would find combinations of written strokes to reduce the amount of time and number of hand movements needed to write.

“When he spoke about his project, his enthusiasm was infectious,” Roos said, adding that Greg successfully defended his senior thesis during the oral component. “He didn’t actually have time to produce a new alphabet, but he never lost sight of the bigger goal, and I am certain that he intended to pursue it further after he graduated.”

“The Greg Constant”

Another of Greg’s teachers, Professor of Computer Science Gregory Kapfhammer, described Greg as funny, creative and enthusiastic.

“I think of Greg as a person who was always dreaming big,” said Kapfhammer, who became Greg’s academic adviser after he transferred to Allegheny.

He remembers that Greg’s first project at Allegheny was an interactive visualization of a non-repeating decimal number Greg had created and named “The Greg Constant,” after himself.

“It was really an imaginative product that combined computer science, mathematics and art,” Kapfhammer said, recalling that Greg said the Greg Constant would always be better than pi.

Later, in a more advanced course, Greg continued working on his new constant, using it to build a distribution system.

“I will never forget it when Greg finished implementing his system,” Kapfhammer said. “Late one night I was in my office and Greg came bounding out from the lab.”

He said Greg reported the good news that his creation worked, and that his method was indeed better than pi.

“I will never forget the sparkle in his eyes or the smile on his face as he shared his good news,” Kapfhammer said.

Greg’s Legacy

Services in Greg’s hometown were held on Wed., May 1, at Elkin Funeral Home in North East, Penn.

“Fear not all of the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘should haves’ and the ‘could haves’ and the ‘what-if-I-hads,’” David said. “They will all fade eventually, if we all strive to remember who [Greg] was.”

“These are moments that challenge us on so many levels […] as a college community, as friends, as family,” said President James Mullen.

“The best we can do is be there for each other, knowing that time will help us heal, our sharing will give us strength, and eventually, our memories and shared reflections of Greg and all he meant to us and to Allegheny will invite more smiles, and ever-deeper gratitude for what he gave to his friends, and to this campus community,” Mullen said.

Professor Roos shared his memory of Greg as a happy individual.

“When I conjure up mental images of Greg, I often imagine him smiling. His smile was infectious, natural, open […] laughter seemed to come easily to him,” said Professor Roos.

To best remember Greg, Roos offered the following advice.

“We should try living each day with our eyes wide with excitement and wonder. We should consciously strive to see the promise in each day, each person and each idea we encounter,” Roos said.

Roos said this is the way he believes Greg lived each day.

“He brightened my classroom with his presence,” Roos said of Greg.