Students, faculty and staff were shaken Monday morning when an email from President Teresa Amott informed the campus that Frantz Salomon, Coordinator for Residential, Fraternity and Sorority Life in the Division of Student Development, had died.
For the many students who had the pleasure of getting to know Salomon, his death took an especially large toll.
Since his arrival at Knox in January, Salomon stressed the importance of building a unified Greek community, a message that resonated with students on campus involved in Greek life. Students knew him for his positive outlook on life and incredibly friendly presence on campus.
Salomon began his work on campus right at the start of primary recruitment in Winter Term, where he made sure to empower Greek students to build a structure that worked for them.
“He really just wanted us to know exactly who we are and what we can do and the influence that we can have but wanted to do it in a way that would help us as people as well,” says sophomore Cammie Stein who was the Vice President of Recruitment for Knox Panhel and served on the committee that hired Salomon. “He was sassy. He always had something to say. He was incredibly helpful.”
For many students, Salomon’s impact went far beyond his involvement in Greek Life. Freshman Precious Sullivan had interacted with Salomon at ABLE events and meetings, The two had conversations about bringing Divine Nine Greek organizations, which are historically Black letter groups, to Knox.
“One of his impacts was like just [being] a person of color making a difference,” Sullivan said.
To Sullivan the fact that so many students have been impacted by Salomon’s passing despite his very short journey at Knox is an indicator of what a wonderful person he was.
Senior and former Beta president Malik Hamilton also felt Salomon’s influence extend far beyond Greek life on campus.
“Not many people talked to him or knew him like that, but he really strived to make a difference on campus within the African-American community as well. That was a major thing that got overlooked,” Hamilton said.
Being one of few Black staff members at Knox, Salomon used his platform to enhance the experiences of Black students in and out of Greek life, an impact sophomore and former Beta IFC representative Tyrese Reed says will be sorely missed.
“We needed familiar faces and we needed higher up leadership at those events to be present to spread awareness,” Reed said. “With him there, it made a big difference, for me at least. With a predominantly white institution like it is here.”
Freshman Myla Boyd got to know Salomon through the leadership course for students interested in being an RA or orientation leader. For Boyd, Salomon’s passing took from her what promised to be a fruitful friendship. “We were robbed, essentially. We just met him, he just got here.”
“Because he does look like me, it was easy for me to talk to him. I lost a connection that could’ve been a lot bigger than what it was, a lot stronger than what it was. That’s really hurtful, to me,” Boyd said.
Reed believes Salomon’s arrival can be credited with the growing presence of positivity within the campus’ African American community.
“There was more talk of embracing that culture and understanding that we’re more than that negative stigma. There’s good that comes out of the African-American community,” Reed said. “It created a certain pride, that wasn’t as public, and him being here and supporting that brought that to the forefront, where it was no longer kind of, ‘I’m in college, I’m Black,’ it was ‘I’m special, the impact that I’m going to have later on will be one of importance.’”
But at the same time, Salomon made it clear to Reed that it was important to support more than just one’s own corner of the Knox community, whether it be their fraternity brothers or fellow Greek peers on campus.
“It wasn’t just, ‘Oh take care of Malik because he’s your brother.’ Or, ‘take care of Beta because that’s your fraternity,’” Reed said. “It was, ‘Take care of each other because you’re all part of the same community.’ And when he said that, he never specified Greek life, he never specified anything, it was just more generalized.”
This is a mentality that Salomon extended to his work as the Greek life adviser, as former TKE president and senior Gil Martinez felt that Salomon was always there for those he met at Knox.
“What I got from him was that he listened and he cared,” Martinez said. “Because before, with administration, we never really felt like we had a voice or that we were being heard, and that they didn’t necessarily care about our problems, but he was there to be the shoulder to cry on so to say, he really did listen to our problems.”
After noticing that Salomon did not attend the retreats he had planned for IFC and Panhel on Sunday, Stein notified Assistant Director of Campus Life for Residential and Greek Education Eleanor Kahn who requested a wellness check for Salomon. Prior to the email update to the entire campus Kahn shared the news in-person with students on campus who worked directly with Salomon, such as Greek leaders and resident assistants.
According to current IFC president and junior Ben Rutter, the meeting took place in Taylor Lounge with a room of about 30 students. Kahn announced that Salomon had died the day before and informed the students of resources available to them on campus. The meeting, according to Rutter, lasted about a minute, as there was simply nothing else that could be said.
“I was really shocked with how young he was, he wasn’t old, he wasn’t unhealthy,” Rutter said. “The spontaneity of something like that puts [life] into perspective.”
To commemorate and celebrate Salomon’s life, the Greek community at Knox has organized a vigil that will be open to the community on Friday, at 8 p.m. on the Gizmo patio. The rain location is Taylor Lounge.
As the end of Spring Term approaches, Greek life leaders and Knox administrators will work to plan events to honor Salomon’s legacy at the college for Fall Term of next academic year. These will likely include a physical marker to memorialize Salomon on campus, possibly in the form of a tree or plaque. For now, though, they are working to support Salomon’s family during this trying time. Rutter said their current goals include contacting his family and fundraising for funeral costs.
Because he had only just arrived on campus, much of Salomon’s vision for the campus on a wider scale were left unfulfilled.
“He was young and he was on the road to do a lot of things, not just for Greek life, but for this campus in general, Reed said. “To see someone one day and for them to be fine, to hear them laugh, and then to hear a couple days later that they’ve passed away, it’s just surreal.”