UNI honors student killed in accident

Issac Roerig’s family stood around his decorated drum during the memorial service Monday night

EMMA'LE MAAS, Executive Editor

On the evening of Monday, Oct. 14, music filled Lawther Field at 7:30 p.m. in a memorial service for Isaac Roerig, a first-year UNI student who was killed Friday, Oct. 9 after being struck by a semi while outside of his car on Highway 20 near the Hudson Road overpass.

Students, staff, community members, friends and relatives gathered to pay their respects and speak about Roerig, who had only begun his journey at UNI eight weeks prior.

The 19-year-old from Sioux City, Iowa was a music education major and was involved in multiple organizations through the UNI School of Music, including symphonic band, UNI Choirs and the Panther Marching Band (PMB).

Dr. Jeffrey Funderburk, chair of the department of music education, spoke about the loss of Roerig to the music community on campus.

“We will cherish the memory of our colleague Isaac, the talented and gifted musician who would have undoubtedly made a terrific educator,” he said.

He then introduced the band and choir in attendance before they played “UNI Alma Mater” on the dark field.

The drumline, of which Roerig was a member, also played at the service in honor of their fallen comrade. During their sequence, however, there were noticeable silences and pauses. Assistant professor of music and associate director of bands Justin Mertz explained that this was because in percussion each instrument has a key part, so the pauses were points in which Roerig’s part would be prominent.

Junior interactive digital studies major and drumline member Kane Olsen said Roerig’s absence has had an impact on the drumline beyond just silences within the music.

“We’re a family in the drumline, and it’s kind of incredible how one person can change everyone within it,” he said. “Having that one piece gone now is just really taking an impact on us.”

Roerig’s drum was lit up and surrounded by flowers, letters and a photo of himself in drumline attire in the middle of the field. His father, brother, aunt and grandmother stood around it during the service, clutching each other as the evening progressed.

Following the performances by the music students, the crowd were encouraged to come up to the microphone to speak on Roerig’s behalf, and many took the opportunity.

Freshmen Maddie and Sara, who grew up with Roerig and graduated from the same high school, spoke about his impact on their own lives.

“If you ever knew him, or knew of him, you knew he was just a ray of sunshine, positive, energetic, always caring no matter what type of guy,” Maddie said. “One who loved with all of his heart, no matter what. No matter how busy he was, how stressed he was, he had his priorities straight and knew he wanted to love.”

Sara followed, choking up as she spoke.

“He was always there for everyone, and very easy to talk to,” she said. “You would always feel comfortable and loved when you were around him.”

Roerig’s roommate, Lucas, also spoke to the crowd.

“He was like a brother to me,” he said. “He listened to me. He was always there.”

Lucas also mentioned Roerig’s impact on his own life.

“He taught me to find my passion,” he said. “He always followed his rigorously. There was no holding back from Isaac. He was forward thinking and always worked hard at what he loved, and it pushes me to be like that, in my future. To never hold anything back, and to chase my passions and what I am called to do in life.”

Roerig’s father Todd, who was a stay-at-home father for most of Roerig’s life, also came forward to the microphone to talk about Roerig’s immediate love for and connection to UNI. He emphasized his gratitude towards everyone during this difficult time.

“I know that he made the right choice when he came to UNI,” he said. “Even though some of you never knew him, or some of you maybe never spoke to him, or maybe you talked every day, I just want to express my gratitude to you for showing up and welcoming him into your community and for being there for him.”

Vice President of Student Affairs Paula Knudson said that although Roerig was only a UNI student for a brief time, his impact was still significant.

“He made connections, he made relationships, he brought joy to our community through his heart, through his talents, through all of you,” she said.

She urged the crowd to seek help in navigating the loss.

Students and staff may call the Counseling Center at (319) 273-2676 at any time and press #2 to speak with a counselor on the phone, or utilize the Counseling Center from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Dean of Students staff are also available to support students who need assistance in balancing grief, academic and other personal obligations.

Knudson supported those who spoke and encouraged others to remain close to each other in this difficult time, while still keeping safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need nothing more than to be connected to one another, but we can do it in a safe way,” she said. “Give each other the space, give each other the love, the support, the ability to cry, the ability to be angry.”