By John Connolly and Liz Friden
Catholic University students mourn the loss of sophomore Daniel Midwinter.
Midwinter was found unresponsive around 11 a.m. on Wednesday in his dorm room in Opus Hall. Emergency responders were not able to revive him. Officials have said his death is from natural causes.
University President John Garvey announced Midwinter’s death Wednesday afternoon in an email to the campus community.
“Our first priority is to honor Daniel’s memory by supporting Daniel’s family and close friends, and to respect their privacy as they mourn his passing,” Garvey said.
Midwinter, 19, originally from New Providence, New Jersey, was a sophomore studying civil engineering. He was an avid fan of Redline and other performing arts programs at Catholic, even having traveled to American University to support Redline at one of their competitions.
Midwinter was an active member of Filipino Organization of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). On Halloween, Midwinter dressed as the Joker and won the FOCUS costume contest. He loved the organization and making people laugh.
Those who knew him said he had hopes of being an Imagineer at the Walt Disney Company. Charli Simone, a friend from Dan’s freshman year Learning Community (LC), said “The fact that he wanted to devote his career to bringing joy to other people was so him. In any situation he was just happy to be there.”
“Dan was the happiest, most positive person I have ever met,” friend Katie O’Neill said. “He made you feel better whenever he could and he would always keep your conversation positive.”
Steve Cypher, Midwinter’s freshman year roommate, said the two of them bonded over the daily struggles of being new students at Catholic.
“We found common ground ranting about our calculus courses, talking about how awesome CUA is, and our love for singing,” Cypher said. “He loved to sing, especially the Broadway hits.”
Cypher said that while Midwinter was “called home early,” he left a mark on him and on those who knew him.
“He embraced these challenges even while being more of a reserved person, but those who took time to know Dan remember the lessons he taught us: incredible fortitude in the face of adversity, unwavering positivity despite the setbacks, and a genuine care for the well being of others,” Cypher said.
He too explained Midwinter’s passion for bringing joy to others.
“Dan’s dream job was to combine his wonderful appreciation for the arts with a civil engineering degree to become an Imagineer at Disney,” Cypher said.
Midwinter’s cousin Cara, a junior at Catholic, said that her cousin always took time to look out for others and to spread joy.
“He loved being at CUA, he loved life, and you can tell – his smile was absolutely contagious,” she said. “There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t make me laugh or smile even if he was just stopping by to say ‘hi.’”
A Mass was celebrated to honor Midwinter’s life at Saint Vincent’s Chapel Wednesday evening. Community members filled the Chapel and the surrounding area to join in remembering Midwinter. Midwinter’s parents attended the Mass and his father thanked the university for the outpouring of support they had received. After the Mass, hundreds of students waited for the Midwinter family to leave and lined the sidewalk to John McCormack Road to show their support.
Bernard Barillo, a friend of Dan’s from FOCUS, spoke about how Dan was always energetic and wanting to try new things.
At the Mass on Wednesday, Midwinter’s Father addressed the overwhelming support from the university community and how he understood why Dan always had a smile on his face. Dan’s friend Barillo added to that idea.
“He had so much fun while he was here,” Barillo said, “but it is not just the school that made him happy, Dan is the one who made us happy.”
In his emails, Garvey made note of campus support services for those in need. Campus Ministry, the Counseling Center, and the Dean of Students are available to provide support to community members. The Counseling Center has walk in hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
In an email to the university community on Tuesday, Father Jude announced the Midwinter Family has made the funeral arrangements for Daniel. The funeral will be celebrated at St. Theresa of Avila Church, Summit, New Jersey on Saturday, November 17 at 9:30 a.m.
The Office of Campus Activities is making arrangements for at least one bus to travel to Daniel’s Funeral Mass on Saturday morning and returning Saturday afternoon. Once Campus Ministry reaches out to the student organizations most affected, all students will have the opportunity to sign up for the remaining seats through Eventbrite starting Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. The link is below.