It is my last few moments as a first-year student at Louisiana State University. As everyone is preparing to move back to campus, I wanted to take this time to reflect on my freshman year of college. I think back to late night study sessions, meeting so many new people, and other amazing memories from this past year of my life.
That is when I think of you, my first official LSU friend.
Orientation is such an awkward time for incoming students. Having to make so many introductions, trying to remember everyone's name, trying to convince people that you're cool, and learn the whereabouts of campus is a lot to do in just one day. I walked to my orientation groups room number just to see a group of blonde, tanned girls who looked similar to a Barbie doll, and then there was you, Max.
Most guys would have been absolutely intimidated by a room full of girls, but NOT you. You were so excited to be in Baton Rouge, so ready to be a college kid at THE Louisiana State University; this group didn't even phase you. I knew we were going to be friends as soon as we started the icebreakers. Everyone in the room had to share the album they last listened to. So after the girls talked about how much they loved Luke Bryan and Taylor Swift, you proceeded to share your interest in rap music, mentioning artists like J. Cole and Young Thug. And friends we were.
As I look back to orientation, I recall you saying, "Avery, you would love my mom. You HAVE to meet her!" You were so persistent in me meeting her, which was confusing at the time, but it makes sense now. I am so grateful that we talked that weekend.
I will always admire your ability to embrace every aspect of LSU, from Mike the Tiger to the dining hall pizza, you loved everything the school had to offer. This makes me think about all of the things you didn't get the opportunity to experience. You missed football games, tailgates, cramming sessions before finals, grooving concerts, late nights at Pluckers, date parties, and so much more.
All of this was taken from you, totally stolen. You came to LSU with open arms, finding your own way, so trusting. And all of that was taken from you, Max.
One awful night all of your dreams, excitement, and trust ended, as it did for me as well. After your death, the entire campus was in shock. Months after, I walked in a daze, simply going through the motions of classes, work, activities. The worst part of this was listening to other students and school representatives talk about your horrific death. I was always trying to take in new information. Everyone had such different views and opinions on the situation, and they didn't even know you.
I still don't know everything that happened to you that night, but I do know you did nothing to deserve any of this.
So many questions, why did this happen to you? Hundreds of guys go through recruitment and pledging every semester, why you? I don't think I will ever be able to understand the unfair treatment that you were forced to go through.
Hopefully, you can make this difference that so desperately needs to happen. Whether it's a difference at LSU, in Louisiana, or maybe even across the country. You and your family are creating a new generation. A generation that doesn't accept hazing. A generation that watches out for each other. A generation that is more educated on the problem of hazing.
Maybe with your story, Greek life will now be able to focus on philanthropy, truly supporting each other, and making the college experience a positive one. Maybe now, Greek life will actually live out the brotherhood and sisterhood that they claim to.
I now know why it was so important for me to meet your mom that orientation day. You can see your mom and dad's hope, strength, and determination for this new generation, and it is truly incredible. Their dedication to telling your story and ending hazing is relentless.
As students of this new generation, we need to come together, lift each other up, better our schools and become a community that we can all be proud of.
Well, Max, I want to end this with a few thank you's. Thank you for the many memories you gave me in such a short amount of time. Thank you for being such a happy, positive soul. Thank you for introducing me to your inspiring family. Thank you for loving rap music as much as I do. Thank you for having such a great sense of humor. Thank you for absolutely loving LSU. Thank you for coming into my life.
"God works in funny ways. He does bad things sometimes because, in the end, they are good. Something bad can happen to you, but it may happen because it will make you better. He does bad to ultimately create good." — Max Gruver