By BROOKELYNN RUGGIRELLO, Student Life Editor
“You don’t anticipate that you’re gonna graduate college, and turn 23 and all the sudden be gone.”
These are the words Greek Life Coordinator Kristin McDonough used to describe the shock that rippled through the campus community after the untimely death of Meghan Walling, a recent UM-Dearborn alumna and an active member of the women’s fraternity Phi Mu.
Walling died on Thursday, Nov. 12 of natural causes. A vigil was held in her honor on Monday, Nov. 16 behind the University Center. According to McDonough, close to 200 people were in attendance. Among them were family members and people from the Greek Life community, many of whom did not even know Walling on a personal basis.
“Because she wasn’t a current student, there was a number of people who hadn’t had the opportunity to meet her [Walling] that were from Greek Life,” McDonough said. “But they were able to come out to the vigil and meet members of their organizations and really understand Meghan’s impact on our community and on each of those individual people.”
This impact was especially notable with Walling’s involvement with Phi Mu.
“She [Walling] was very, very active within her chapter,” McDonough said. “[She was] just someone who’s very well regarded, whether you knew her very intimately or not, as being just really fun-loving, had a great, fun spirit, loved life. Very social person, very much friends with everyone, could hold a conversation with anyone or make any event much more fun and entertaining. She’s very well-regarded for having an excellent sense of humor and just a love and like zest for life.”
Walling also served as a Rho Gamma, or recruitment counselor, on the Greek Life Panhellenic Council, temporarily renouncing her own allegiance to Phi Mu in order to recruit new members.
“She’s someone who we like to say ‘gave up her letters’ over the summer because the recruitment counselors aren’t allowed to tell anyone what sorority they’re a member of,” McDonough said. “So, that was something that a lot of people that have come in the last few days and shared that Meghan was their Rho Gamma so she really helped influence their decision to go Greek, really helped them understand the opportunity that was presented to them, and helped them think through the different chapters that were available and what was the best fit for them. And so that was something that the individuals who were also Rho Gammas that year look back fondly on: being able to spend that summer working with her and encouraging people to go Greek and to understand all the opportunities it can afford you.”
Chelsea Grigg, the president of UM-Dearborn’s Phi Mu chapter, was someone who Walling had a profound impact on.
“Being a Rho Gamma is a huge responsibility and a very respectable thing to do in the Greek community, so from the beginning I admired her,” Grigg said. “When I found out she was a Phi Mu I was ecstatic to be in the same sorority as her. The first thing I noticed about her besides her sense of humor was that she seemed to be friends with not only everyone in Phi Mu but in the Greek community. While Meghan was an active member in the chapter there was never a dull moment. She was always making us laugh while spreading her carefree attitude with us. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to know her and proud to have shared a bond of sisterhood with a woman who had a such a big impact on our campus.”
Even in death, Walling’s influence on the Greek community at UM-Dearborn lives on.
“There’s close to, around a third of our Greek community joined this semester, so to know that there’s that many people that didn’t know Meghan [but still memorialized her],” McDonough said. “But chapters rearranged their chapter meetings and so they either cancelled or pushed back, or did different things so that they’d be able to come out to the vigil and show their support both for the chapter, for those who knew her, but also for her family. So having her sister there, and her dad, and her nieces, and other friends and family from around the area, so there were a lot of people that were able to come and kind of share memories just from around the community and from being involved that way.”