On a beautiful, breezy Tuesday morning, 2,000 students
gathered on Homewood's Keyser Quadrangle clad in
flip-flops, shorts and other summertime clothes, dressed to
remember 20-year-old Christopher Elser, a fun-loving junior
whose life had ended tragically two days earlier.
Friends and classmates embraced Chris Elser's
signature style with encouragement from his family, who had
said that such easygoing clothes were exactly what Elser
would have worn had he been there in the sun himself.
Remembered for his fantastic collection of T-shirts as
well as his big heart, Elser died from knife wounds on
April 18, the day after an early morning attack by an
intruder in the off-campus apartment building occupied by
his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
From fraternity brothers to family members, those who
spoke of Elser at the hourlong service recalled his energy,
sense of humor and his ability to make them feel better
when they were down.
Opening the service, President William R. Brody said,
"Over the weekend, at the hospital, my wife, Wendy, and I
saw the tremendous outpouring of love and affection that
came to Chris from his family, his friends and his
fraternity brothers, and we thought, Here is someone whose
years have been full of life indeed. ... Today, we feel
intensely the loss of Chris Elser. But we can be sure that
the love his family and his friends have for him will not
diminish, and we take comfort in knowing that love will
continue, as long as we remain."
Chris Elser and his father, Kip Elser, A&S '73, in
Thanking his son's classmates and fellow students for their
love and support, Christopher's father, Kip Elser, said,
"It's a beautiful day, and I wish we were somewhere else.
This is a moment to stop, reflect, take a minute to be
aware of where you are. Savor the moment. Don't rush quite
so fast-straight through your young lives."
Chris' little sister, he said, would need their
guidance and support, not just now but for years to come.
"As Taylor said to us two days ago at the hospital, 'Who am
I going to get now to teach me how to grow up ... and be
Prior to the service, Elser's fraternity brothers
passed out programs as some of his favorite country songs
floated across the quad, courtesy of a CD compiled by
Taylor. The bright blue flag of Elser's home state, South
Carolina, fluttered at the foot of Gilman Hall near a
collage of photos of Elser. Students carried flowers, and
many in the Greek community wore blue ribbons pinned to
The service and the luncheon that followed in the
Glass Pavilion were among many tributes to Chris in the
days after his death. A candlelight vigil was held on the
Keyser Quad April 21. The Hopkins Choral Society, the
Baltimore School for the Arts Chamber Choir and the Hopkins
Symphony Orchestra planned a performance of the Mozart
Requiem the evening of April 24 at the Bunting-Meyerhoff
Elser and his girlfriend, Kyra Appleby.
The weekend's Spring Fair also was dedicated to Elser. In
addition to those events, the student-run DailyJolt@Hopkins
Web site created a special page, online at
The site features photos and memories of Elser submitted by
friends. The university's Remembering Chris Elser site is
A memorial service in South Carolina was held Friday
morning at the Steeple Chase Museum in Elser's hometown of
In pursuing his education at Johns Hopkins, Elser
followed in the footsteps of his father, who graduated in
1973. The younger Elser also had a close relationship with
two of his father's Hopkins classmates, James P. MacGuire,
who was Christopher Elser's godfather, and Patrick
Smithwick Jr., both of whom spoke at the Homewood memorial
service. Smithwick read a poem he wrote about his friend's
son, recalling how Elser had a way of "giving off a sense
of dynamic goodwill at any time of day or night." He spoke
of Elser's mischievous side, how he enjoyed a good prank
and enjoyed a day with Smithwick on his farm, laughing " at
the absurdity of bouncing in a 30-year-old truck around a
field putting up fences for a gray-haired Hopkins
classmate" of his father.
Smithwick's words evoked what many speakers at the
Homewood memorial service expressed about how to remember
Elser: "We will most honor Christopher by living every
shimmering moment to the fullest. By exuding positive
energy and creative ideas. By appreciating every electric
moment of life. That's what Christopher did so well."
In addition to his father and sister, Elser is survived by his
mother, Rhetta Elser. Memorial contributions can be
made to the Christopher B. Elser Scholarship Fund.
To address students' concerns about safety on and off
campus, the university is hosting a town hall-style forum
at 4 p.m. today, April 26, in Shriver Hall Auditorium.