Memorials established after student death

Memorials established after student death

Kellen Brandt, Features Reporter

One year later, Winona State University continues to remember former student Derek Harms through memorials around campus and in the community.

Derek Harms died during a snowboarding incident on April 9, 2018.

Derek Harms attended Winona State from fall 2015 to spring 2018. In his time at Winona State, Harms was a recreation, tourism and therapeutic recreation (RTTR) major with a minor in communications and was involved in multiple clubs, sports and activities on campus.   

To remember and tribute Derek Harms, his family, friends and the university have all organized memorials to celebrate the time Harms spent here.   

Dennis Harms, Derek’s father shared the following:

“My wife and I are extremely grateful for the heartfelt outreach we’ve received from Derek’s friends, classmates and instructors at WSU,” Dennis Harms said. “With their support and help, we have been buoyed and propelled to complete tributes to Derek – in ways that express his energy, spirit and interests.”

Outside of Memorial Hall three birch trees and a sign that says ‘Derek Harms’ stands as a place where friends, family and loved ones can remember Harms in the outdoor element he loved most.

Chad Kjorlien, faculty professional support coordinator and RTTR adjunct instructor at Winona State had Harms in class last spring when he died.

“He was in my RTTR class and his death deeply affected all of us everyone was touched by him and his presence. He is very much a source of inspiration,” Kjorlien said.

To honor Harms and his time spent learning at Winona State, the RTTR department partnered with the Harms family to create the Derek Harms Leadership Award.

“A year after his death and Derek still has such an impact on the RTTR department.” Kjorlien said. “There is a lot of enthusiasm in the department to see Derek be remembered through the program,”   

As an RTTR major and a lover of the outdoors, Harms found his niche working at the Outdoor Education and Recreation Center (OERC) in Winona. In honor of Harms’ love and dedication to nature and leadership at Winona State, the OERC started the OERC Travel Award.

Lorene Olson, an RTTR Professor at Winona State, had Harms in two classes on a travel study program to Australia and New Zealand.

“I found Derek to be a thoughtful, adventuresome, upbeat and well-liked student who established many close friendships during this program,” Olson said.

During an RTTR faculty meeting, Olson shared withduate this spring and they wanted to do something to remember Harms during this time.

“We brainstormed some ways to fondly remember Derek during this time and came up with the idea of a pin. Just below RTTR are the words “In Memory of Derek Harms” on the pin. Those graduates who wish to, will be invited to keep Derek close to their hearts by wearing this pin on graduation day,” Olson said.

To commemorate Harms’ time on the Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team at Winona State, Harms’ jersey is hanging up in the Ultimate Frisbee team’s display case in Memorial Hall.

Luke Bordeau, a senior education major, was a teammate of Harms and shared some words about him.   

“Derek was always so kind, generous and curious. How he lived his life was an inspiration– never taking a day for granted and always living life to the fullest,” Bordeau said.

Harms will be remembered through friends, family and fellow classmates at Winona State through his many memorials and long-lasting effect on everyone he knew.   

“Moving forward, we offer sincere thanks to all those who continue to keep our son Derek’s spirit alive by name and through worthy actions,” Dennis Harms said.