Utica dedicates four trees in honor of students and faculty lost last academic year

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Alexandria Leland

Faculty, Staff, Community members and students gather around the tree dedicated to James Scannell.

By Isabella Hudziak, Utica University

Beneath the autumn sky and through a gentle breeze, members of the Utica University community gathered along the la

wn between Strebel Circle and Boehlert Hall on Sept. 1 at 4 p.m. to partake in a tree dedication ceremony held for those lost during the 2021-22 academic year.

Four trees stand tall along the green of Lot C across from Boehlert’s sidewalk. Cloth had been placed upon the plaques embedded into the ground to be unveiled later in the ceremony.

Behind a podium placed across the trees, President Laura Casamento delivered remarks in remembrance of Alyssa Parrino, John Paul “JP” Ramel, Coach Mike Parnell and Professor Jim Scannell.

Parrino ‘22 was a Psychology-Child Life major who aspired to become a certified child life specialist and dedicated member of the Psychology-Child Life Society who participated in and helped plan several fundraising events for the community.

“Despite the many challenges she faced during a long-fought battle with leukemia, she persisted in her studies at Utica and wanted nothing more than to help others,” Casamento said.

Ramel ‘22, a Construction Management major, served as Utica’s Student Contractors Association president for 3 years. He volunteered at the Plumstead Volunteer Fire Company and was a mutual aid volunteer for the New York Mills Fire Department.

“He also volunteered with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a not-for-profit that builds and delivers beds to children without them,” Casamento said. “And I know that [Sleep in Heavenly Peace] is a not-for-profit that has become near and dear to so many of our hearts.”

Coach Mike Parnell, an ‘02 alum, was the men’s lacrosse coach. He was a founding member of Utica’s lacrosse program.

“[He] had a deep love and respect for our institution, its mission, and most of all, its people,” Casasmento said. “Both on and off the field, [he] coached with incredible energy and passion, earning him the praise of generations of our student-athletes.”

Professor Jim Scannell taught English literature for over 20 years at Utica, including introductory courses for the English major and specialized literature courses.

“Jim touched the lives of thousands of our students,” Casamento said. “With his boundless humor, intelligence, and humanity, he was truly one of our guiding lights.”

Moments before the unveiling of the plaques, Casamento addressed the crowd for anyone to come to the podium and offer remarks. Instead, the crowd held a moment of silence for the four lives being honored.

One by one, Casamento peeled back the cloths to reveal the plaques with the help of four others from the major or sport that belonged to the honored:

  • Assistant Professor of Construction Management Audrey Cross for Ramel’s plaque.
  • Assistant Professor of Psychology-Child Life Melissa Racioppa for Parrino’s plaque.
  • Women’s Lacrosse Coach Kristin St. Hilaire aided Casamento to reveal Coach Parnell’s plaque.
  • Professor Scannell’s memorial plaque was revealed by Distinguished Professor of English Gary Leising and Casamento.

“They planted their roots here within our University community,” Casamento said. “They made our campus a more beautiful place to be. And now, in their honor, these trees will do the same.”

This story was originally published on The Tangerine on September 12, 2022.