On Jan. 18, 2017, a prayer vigil was held for Austin Richardson, a UWG student whose life was taken on January 14, 2017. The service was organized by the members of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity (TKE), and Kappa Delta Sorority. The event took place at the Greek Village basketball court with over 500 students and members of the Greek community in attendance.
Richardson was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon and made a significant impact on his friends and family. More specifically, he impacted the Greek community in such a way that was expressed through the vast amount of support at the prayer vigil.
“I know that Austin found his family with TKE, but ultimately he found his family within this Greek community,” said Taylor Smith, a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon. “It speaks volumes for the community with this outpouring love and respect for someone that many of you hardly knew. I know in my heart that Austin is looking down and smiling because he made an impact here.”
Greek Life is known to hold the title of many different opinions. Some may think of the Greek community as impractical or senseless. To others, Greek Life might mean unity or family. To the members of Tau Kappa Epsilon, the Greek community means much more through the bond that is shared within their tragic loss.
“Something that struck me about Austin is a particular instance that took place on initiation day,” said Wesley Grace, also a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon. “Austin came up and hugged me and said we are family now. I told him that we were brothers for life.”
Family is something that was very present in Richardson’s life. Not just his blood related family, but the family that he gained through the fraternity and the Greek community as a whole.
“Tonight I just want to thank everyone for being here because Austin is not just our family, but we are all his family in Greek life,” Grace continued. “This is what Greek life is all about and this what brotherhood and sisterhood is. Tonight we are family.”
While on his way home from work, Richardson’s life was taken by a drunk driver, Tulia Eustache, who hit Richardson head-on around 7:00 p.m. Richardson passed away at the scene, while Eustache was taken to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The family of Richardson hopes that his loss will serve as a reminder to say no to driving after drinking.
“I know the college life is all about having fun and school is in there somewhere, but just make sure that when you are out having fun that if you cannot drive, do not drive,” said Richardson’s father. “The person who took my son’s life should have known better. It is the worst thing that could ever happen to a family.”
Richardson used his involvement in Tau Kappa Epsilon as a way to regain his happiness through a tough time at home. He was able to develop strong friendships and become his usual positive, genuine self again.
“Being a part of this fraternity was so important to Austin,” said Richardson’s mother. “When he entered into the fraternity it was a tough time in our household and the fraternity became his family and it meant everything to him. It turned his life around and he was able to laugh again.”
The prayer vigil ended with everyone lifting up their candles and taking a moment of silence as one last tribute to Austin Richardson, a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity and a smiling face to those who love him most.