By Michael Ortiz & Katie Krahulik
Editor-in-chief / News Editor
A wave of heartache washed over Hofstra’s campus on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 26, following news of the passing of Declan Quinlan, a junior marketing major whose life – many say – is best showcased in his artwork. His impact permeates the university; from the School of Business to the Department of Photography, Quinlan offered a spirit and intellectualism that inspired others to search for their passions.
Quinlan passed away as a result of injuries suffered in a skateboarding accident on the West Bridge (commonly known as the Netherspan) on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 11:26 p.m., according to the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD).
NCPD reported he “was riding his skateboard across the elevated footbridge on the walkway when he hit the stairway protective railing. That caused him to flip over and fall approximately thirty feet to the bottom.”
He was transported to Nassau University Medical Center where he fought for his life for 10 days. During this time, his family organized a GoFundMe campaign through which they shared the news of his passing.
A note signed by his family said, “It is with heavy hearts that we share our Declan has lost his battle for life. He fought vigorously for 10 days, but ultimately his injuries were too much to overcome. We greatly appreciate everyone’s love and support during this difficult time. Pray for our Declan.”
He was born on March 21, 1997 in South Burlington, Vermont. When he came to Hofstra he fully immersed himself in the community. Along with being a business student and member of the university’s record label, Mane Records, he expressed his relentless passion for capturing the world as he saw it through his camera lens. His work was selected to be displayed in a FORM Gallery titled “Teenage Riot” in the spring 2017 semester.
Quinlan worked alongside senior psychology major Jess Keller as the student co-managers of Hofstra’s photography lab located in Calkins Hall. They had been partners within the department for about a year. Keller said his dependability and loyalty to the studio prompted her to take him on as co-manager, and in turn she gained a great friend.
“Anytime I went to him for advice, he would encourage me to make decisions that made me happy. He told me not to care so much about what other people think,” Keller said. “He encouraged me to always do the right thing, not just for myself, but to take other people into account in addition to myself – to live life to the fullest.”
Their responsibilities included managing between eight and 12 employees, assisting coworkers, doing lab aide positions, helping professors within the department, setting up chemicals in the dark room and assisting students in their artistic endeavors.
Keller said Quinlan was one to fight for what was right and was willing to help anyone out. “He was always the light of the lab. As a leader, he was always there for everyone. It was never about him. He always just wanted to make sure everyone was okay,” she said.
She described him as a “free artist,” looking to capture honest portrayals of the world around him. Keller said he was always behind a camera, and she lauded his documentary-style work. “He had a street kind of style. He had that relaxed positive outlook through everything. He wanted to make people laugh as well, taking ridiculous pictures of everything and making people laugh,” she said.
He also interned for Ruvan Wijesooriya, a photographer based in New York City. Wijesooriya wrote this message with his girlfriend, Francesca Wade: “Declan was enthusiastic and always positive; it was a pleasure to have him helping out in the studio as our intern. Eager to learn, ready for adventure, cracking jokes when he could – he was a lot of fun!!! We miss him dearly and will not forget his smile. Rest in Peace, dear Declan.”
Michela Pittman, Quinlan’s former girlfriend, met him when she arrived at Hofstra her freshman year. The two dated for about a year. “He was my first love. He’ll remain that way in my heart through everything I do,” Pittman said.
He wanted everyone to try skateboarding, including Pittman. He grew up skating in Vermont and built a mini ramp in his garage from the ground up. Pittman said one day they grabbed a parking block from somewhere in Nassau County, threw it in Quinlan’s car, brought it to his house and he would skate on it in his driveway. His spontaneity, she explained, could not be matched.
“I would really like to see some sort of club or team formed in his honor at Hofstra. He would have loved that. That was one of his ways of connecting with the community at Hofstra,” Pittman said.
His involvement with skateboarding and surfing as well as music, art and photography displayed the 20 year old’s ambitious persistence in mastering several passions. “He would be so proactive about his work. He was always concerned with his impact,” Pittman said.
“I continuously believe that he’s around. He’s in a different form, a different light. I am forever inspired by Declan,” she said.
He was undoubtedly a friend to many. Adam Hockenberry, a junior political science and global studies major shared Quinlan’s love for photography, music and art leading to a friendship that Hockenberry said sparked very quickly.
“I think it’s important to remember that he’s one of the most diversely creative people I’ve ever known. He had his hands in every cookie jar artistically speaking,” Hockenberry said.
The two met in the Netherlands Complex courtyard early in their freshman year. Hockenberry talked to Quinlan about an art show in Brooklyn. From that point on, the two remained very close. “He was a best friend, you know. He always provided a source of warmth and light and I always knew that when he was listening. When we would talk, whether it was me giving him some sort of advice from a breakup or whatever it was just shooting the shit, hanging out. I knew that he was truly listening and kept open ears all the time.”
Maya Kaushal and Jessie Allendorf, both junior psychology majors, recognized him as being their first friend at Hofstra. “He was such a goofball, always on that skateboard. He was so easy to connect with,” Kaushal said. She described Quinlan as nothing but positive. “The second you talked to him he was genuinely interested in everything you had to say and he was genuinely interested in every person he met.”
Allendorf said she had an easy transition into college thanks to Quinlan’s welcoming attitude. “He was amazing at all he did between the theater, photography, music and even modeling when he was on the other side of the camera,” she said. “Everyone knew Declan whether it was personally, for his photography or music or just in passing by seeing him skateboard outside of the dorms or around campus.”
Vice President of Student Affairs W. Houston Dougharty said the university staff are all devastated by the loss. “We have been with his family every day since the accident. We reached out to his closest friends and housemates. We want them to know that we share their grief,” Dougharty said. “Members of our staff have grown quite close with his family. We want to provide them with all the support we possibly can.”
As soon as the Student Affairs team heard of his death, they checked to make sure his family was comfortable sharing the news with the Hofstra community. Dougharty said with incidents like this, their approach is to respond however the family wants to respond.
The Student Health and Counseling Center (SHACC) was open Thursday evening for anybody who needed to stop by. Members of SHACC have been meeting with student groups throughout the week.
“The loss of any member of the community is one that we all feel. It’s become very evident how many lives Declan has impacted. He’s a good friend and he’s very involved,” Dougharty said.
His heavy involvement with music was evidenced by his iTunes library, which Pittman described as being “the largest in the world,” replete with EDM, rock, reggae, old school hip hop, alternative and modern music. “The way that he cared for music transitioned into the way he cared for people. No matter who you were, he cared,” Pittman said.
His admiration for music and appreciation for artists was exhibited by his hard work and dedication to Mane Records, of which Quinlan was a loyal member.
The students of Mane Records collectively shared this statement about their beloved peer and friend: “The Mane Records staff is heartbroken by the loss of our coworker and dear friend, Declan. We had the joy of working alongside him for the past 10 months and quickly learned that he was a genuine and friendly person who inspired us all with his creativity and passion for music and photography. We will remember him through the photographs and memories he left with us.”
Public Safety lowered the flags on campus in memory of Quinlan beginning Friday at 12:30 p.m. until Tuesday morning.
Dakota Pelly, a senior sustainability studies major, had several classes with Quinlan and worked with him in the photography department. “He really captured life. He went out to concerts, he went out on the streets. He liked being in the moment, which is good for photography because you just need to capture what you’re feeling,” Pelly said. “He was a well-developed person emotionally. He communicated to people his feelings pretty easily with his work and personality.”
The photography department will display a FORM Gallery in Calkins Hall showcasing Quinlan’s work. The tentative date and time is Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 11 a.m.
Keller remembered a story that highlighted Quinlan’s spirit. She said, “He was hanging out with friends, he got a smiley face tattoo. I asked him why and he said ‘Because it made me happy.’ His smiley face tattoo is what resonates, at least with me.”
Note: The date of Nov. 8 for the form gallery in Declan’s honor is a tentative date and is subject to change.