Maggie was on the golf team. She hoped to study abroad in Germany. She planned on attending law school. Maggie’s passions, plans, and hopes were snuffed out in her sophomore year at Kalamazoo College with two gunshots.
The Community Reflection held Friday, October 9 was in memorial of Maggie Wardle, who was murdered on campus by her ex-boyfriend in 1999. Maggie was a victim of intimate partner violence, described as physical, sexual, or psychological harm done by a current or former spouse. The service was both in honor of Maggie and to address dating violence on campus today.
“The only way to redeem a terrible event is to learn from it,” College Chaplain Liz Candido said in her opening address. “Intimate partner violence is a reality here at K College.”
Student speakers went on to define dating violence, share personal testimonials, and relate struggles on campus today to Maggie’s tragedy in 1999.
What happened to Maggie, while extreme, is part of a larger pattern of violence in our society. Every nine seconds in the US, a woman is assaulted or beaten, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Assaults by domestic partners are the greatest single cause of injury to U.S. women, accounting for more emergency-room visits than auto accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
Maggie’s death has led to a change in both college policy and student mindset.
“I think that this is a reminder to keep an eye out for those we love, to remember the warning signs and be active in our communities to help this violence stop,” said Heather Dannison, a Kalamazoo College counselor.
“What’s unbelievable is that she knew about this stuff, she was assertive, she was smart,” Rick Omilian, Maggie’s stepfather, said. “In the U.S. we tend to think that because of socioeconomic status, or the area where you live, you have certain standards…but that’s not the case. This could happen to anybody.”
Rick and Martha Omillian, Maggie’s mother, have worked to raise awareness about intimate partner violence since Maggie’s death. They have spoken at local high schools and donated to organizations that combat domestic abuse.
Martha Omilian knits and sells “Maggie’s hats,” which can be purchased on the website rememberingmaggie.org. The website also presents more information on intimate partner violence.
“We shouldn’t have to have tragedies like this…we just need to keep working together and listening to each other,” Rick Omillian said.