May 4, 1998
Contact: Elizabeth Latt
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A memorial service is scheduled Tuesday on the Vanderbilt University campus for senior Kevin Longinotti, who on Monday lost his battle to overcome injuries he received when a tree fell on him during a tornado that struck near campus April 16.
The memorial will be held at 3 p.m. in Benton Chapel and will be conducted by Col. Charles McCaskey, the Army ROTC chaplain for the state of Tennessee.
The 22-year-old student from Memphis died at 12:27 a.m. at Vanderbilt University Hospital, just four days before he was to have received his bachelor's degree and to have been commissioned as an Army officer. Because Longinotti had met the requirements for graduation, he will receive his degree posthumously at Friday's ceremony.
"Kevin was an extraordinary young man. He was one of our best and brightest students. He was also a compassionate person who felt blessed by his talents and freely shared his good fortune with others," Chancellor Joe B. Wyatt said Monday.
"The Vanderbilt community is deeply saddened by the loss of this young man who held such promise and who already had begun to make the world a better place," Wyatt said. "Our hearts go out to his family, his many friends and the countless lives he touched as a student, a teacher and a person."
For the past 17 days, Longinotti fought to overcome injuries that doctors said would have instantaneously killed anyone who was not as strong and healthy as he. His family and friends kept a constant vigil throughout hoping that he would overcome the odds which were never in his favor.
A memorial service is expected to be held on campus; however, the date and time are not yet set. The funeral is expected later in the week in Memphis.
Members of the University chaplain's office and the Psychological and Counseling Center were meeting with students Monday and will be available throughout the week for counseling, according to Brock Williams, assistant dean of Housing and Residential Education.
Longinotti's family and friends organized a special blood drive April 22 in his honor. The American Red Cross reported that a record of more than 600 donors gave during the drive, which was held to replenish the blood supply following the tornado.
With majors in secondary education, mathematics and special education, Longinotti had hoped to teach students with profound disabilities, said Chris LaFevor, director of teacher licensure at Peabody College, Vanderbilt's college of education and human development. He would have been licensed to teach children from kindergarten to 12th grade with severe multiple physical and mental disabilities as well as to teach math in grades 7 through 12.
Longinotti came to Vanderbilt on an ROTC scholarship after graduating first in his class at Kingsbury High School in Memphis.
At Vanderbilt, he was an outstanding student despite the heavy course load required for three majors. He made the dean's list five of the seven semesters he was eligible for the honor. Because of student teaching in spring 1998, he was not eligible for the dean's list.
Longinotti pursued a variety of interests in his four years at Vanderbilt. "Kevin was typically doing four things at once, if not more," LaFevor said.
A leader in the Army ROTC, he was to have been commissioned following Vanderbilt's Commencement May 8 as a second lieutenant in the Army and was assigned to Ft. Gordon in Georgia for officer training.
His first three years at Vanderbilt he played in the marching band. In his senior year he served as head resident adviser for one of the freshman dormitories.
His education in the past two years had included practicums and student teaching placements in area schools. He also had served two semesters as a job coach with special education students, visiting them on their jobs and helping them learn functional, academic and vocational skills.
In his "statement of aspirations" required of all students before they begin their student teaching, Longinotti said that he received a sense of accomplishment working with students with severe disabilities. "I have found that through helping these individuals in their transition endeavors, I am invigorated and happy. There is no feeling of satisfaction that can even remotely compare to the satisfaction I derive from helping these students take the small steps necessary to move closer to independence."
Longinotti came to Vanderbilt with plans to be a mathematics teacher, said Research Assistant Professor Joseph Wehby, Longinotti's adviser in special education. However, he expanded his career goals to include education of students with special needs. "He wanted to walk out of here prepared to teach a diverse group of students. Kevin recognized that more and more children with diverse educational needs are being educated in the same environment and he wanted to be able to teach all of them."
Longinotti's injury occurred while he and other members of the Army ROTC had gathered at Centennial Park, near campus, for a picnic to mark the end of the academic year. The storm came up quickly, and Longinotti was struck as he and others scrambled for shelter. Five other members of the group were injured but were released from the hospital shortly afterward.
His survivors include his mother, Deborah Slepicka, of Memphis; his father, Paul Longinotti, of Little Rock, Ark.; his stepfather, Gary Slepicka, of Memphis; and three brothers, Tony Longinotti, Justin Slepicka and Aaron Slepicka, all of Memphis; maternal grandmother, Bobbie Zachary of Little Rock; and paternal grandfather, Henry Pete Longinotti of Little Rock.
Vanderbilt University is a private research university of approximately
5,900 undergraduates and 4,300 graduate and professional students. Founded
in 1873, the University comprises 10 schools, a public policy institute,
a distinguished medical center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center.
Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences,
education and human development, engineering and music, and a full range
of graduate and professional degrees.
For more news about Vanderbilt, visit the News and Public Affairs home page on the Internet at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/News.